Continuing the series of interviews with candidates for office, Betsy Sweet has been gracious enough to answer a few of my questions!

Thank you allowing me to interview you! Please tell me a little bit about yourself and why you are qualified to be our next Governor.

I am a longtime progressive advocate, entrepreneurial business woman, and, most importantly a Mom of 3 fabulous daughters.  I have worked at the state house for 35 years advocating for ordinary, extraordinary Maine people and making sure their voices are at the policy making tables.  Over the years that has meant working on behalf of women, children, people with behavioral health issues, addiction challenges, mental and physical disabilities, protecting the environment, helping with alternative health approaches of midwives, acupuncturists, naturopaths – allowing us access to things other than corporate health care as we achieve single payer health care.  I did the research and helped write the first Clean Elections law in Maine, and in the country and the same with the first Family Medical Leave Act – the law that lets people care for their loved ones without losing their jobs.  I am the “Sweet Spot” between an ordinary mom – trying to get health care, pay for my kids college tuition and my property taxes, and someone who knows how to get things done in the system, but is not part of the system that is so broken.

The Democratic side of the field is gaining in numbers and more are expected to join the race. Why are you the Democratic party’s best chance against the Republicans in the General Election? 

First, because I will be the first Governor in the country to be elected as a Clean Elections Candidate.  As a CE candidate I, and my team of volunteers will be out canvassing doors in Maine from Kittery to Ft. Kent – and we will be listening to people’s hopes, dreams, fears, frustrations, and then involving them in the solutions that make Maine the best state in the country.  The people closest to the problem are closest to the solution – and we are so far away from that now.  I am what I am.  When people talk with me they know they are getting the real deal – and what I really think – not what a pollster told me to say.  I am a listener, a bold, creative thinker , I have spent a life time bringing people together – and I am the most enthusiastic, hopeful, and fun one in the bunch – on any side!

You have said that “Maine needs to elect a Governor who answers to regular Maine folks.” Can you give one example of how our current Governor didn’t listen to regular Mainers and what you would have done differently? 

That’s too easy – there are too many examples.  Let’s start with the most obvious – I would NOT have worked to overturn and undo every single referendum that the Maine voters approved in November.  Maine people matter.  What they think matters.  Voters count. Period.  I would have honored what they voted on.

Most people view “lobbyists” as a dirty word. What do you say to people that try to use your history of advocating as a negative? 

 I wish there were a filing category that was “advocate”.  When people think of lobbyists, they think of fat guys in suits with money falling out of their pockets and a cigar.  Those people are out there.  I am not one of them.   The people I advocate for are people who don’t have their voices represented in the halls or a seat at the table.  It’s your elderly neighbor who needs home based care, the young heroin addict down the street who needs services to quit, the midwife you want to deliver your baby but doesn’t have access to necessary lab services,  my friends who work two jobs and go to school and can’t get health insurance.  I guarantee that is not what people think of when they hear the word “lobbyist”.  I am a voice for so many people who are not at the table – trying to make sure they are not on the menu!
I understand you’re a supporter of Single Payer Healthcare – Why do you want this and how do you propose that Maine or the United States implements this method?
Health care is one of the most difficult issues that Maine, and this country faces.  It is wrong that we are the only nation in the world that can’t seem to get this done.  Why? the huge money that lobbies against every plan that makes common sense.  Lack of health care is also a huge hindrance on Maine’s economy… people stay in jobs (and marriages) they hate, or fail to take a job because of health insurance.  People don’t start the business they have passion for because they can’t afford health insurance.  I have struggled as an entrepreneur and a mom to provide health care for me and my kids for years.   And look, we already have single payer health care.  We have it for people 65 and older in the form of Medicare – and for low income folks in the form of Medicaid.  It’s just the folks in the middle who don’t have it and pay for all the profits of drug companies, insurance companies, highly paid administrators – not opt of paying for the care they need.  If we take all the money we spend “in the middle” and use it to purchase care, we can do this.  It is a matter of budget priorities – not “can” or “can’t”.  It’s really a matter of right and wrong.  And I 100% support the referendum in the fall to expand Medicaid to cover another 70,000 Mainers – with the federal government picking up much of the cost. This is one of the number one issues we must deal with – and it doesn’t look like we will get leadership from Washington.  The states are going to have to take the lead.  Dirigo!
Your website does not currently have much policy positions or in-depth specifics. Do you have plans to update this or create a method to show voters where you stand on many different issues?  

Yes, I will be posting a lot of my positions on issues and also my values and how I approach an issue.  Meanwhile, people can give us their emails, follow us on FaceBook (Sweet for Governor) and Instagram and Twitter – (Sweet4Governor) – and a lot of what I stand for will be reflected there.  But check back soon!

What do you think is the biggest challenge that Democrats face across the state and nationwide? And how do we fix that problem?  

We need to be relevant to people’s lives.  We need to listen.  We need to stand for things – and let people know our ideas and creative solutions.  We have to ask the right question – not “who is to blame” but “how do we fix this”? .  We need to have bold, out of the box ideas that come from the people who are living the problem.  We need to fight Citizens United and the corrupting influence of money in politics by running and electing Clean Elections Candidates.  We need to widen our circle – make our table big enough for a diversity of opinions and a diversity of strategies.  We need to get back to the grass roots organizing that keeps us grounded in the reality of the lives of the people we represent.  Here in Maine and everywhere.

What are your thoughts on Ranked Choice Voting being current law but facing upcoming challenges of implementation, constitutionality and use for the 2018 Governor race?

I love Ranked Choice Voting – and I have talked to lawyers who disagree with the Court’s advisory opinion about its constitutionality.  But from where we now are, they certainly agreed that it was legal in primaries.  I expect that the legislature and the Secretary of State will follow the law – at least in the primaries.  I also support it because it will cut down on the mean, vitriolic campaigns – because if you want to be someone’s number two, you better not be saying mean things about their number one candidate! I also believe it opens up the process – so many times people say “oh, I love so and so, but they can’t win. ”  This would allow them to vote their heart, and still know that their vote counts if their first candidate comes up short.
I understand that you’re running as a Clean Elections Candidate. Why is money in politics so important to you and why are you running Clean?

As I’ve said, I have advocated on behalf of regular Maine folks for over 35 years.  I have seen first hand what the impact of money in politics is.  I did the research in 1992 that led to, and then helped write the first law in 1996.  The impact now is even worse.  Big money and the lobbyists it buys blocks progress on so many things Mainers care about and need – health care, prescription drugs that are affordable, renewable/affordable energy – to name just a few.  And it’s on both sides of the aisle.  It is not as simple and straight forward as “buying a vote” – but it buys access, gets a seat at the table for both strategy and policy making.  It’s a ticket to those back rooms.   And it is so limiting in terms of policy idease and development that reflects Mainer’s lives.  Just this past session I watched solar energy, affordable generic drugs, and mental health services for people in jail all ultimately fail because of the influence of money.  We have an opportunity to change that.  To really bring about huge change to a very broken system.  It seems that if there were ever a time that people are ready to say “ENOUGH” this is it… no more incremental tweaking at things – but to really cut off the special interests at the knees.  And imagine having a Governor whose only special interest is the people of Maine.  When I am elected as a Clean Elections candidate… it will not only fundamentally change Maine politics, but it will change national politics – forever.

What has to happen for you to be able to qualify for public funding via Clean Elections?

It’s a tough climb – as it should be.  First I have to raise “seed money” to  get the campaign going and to prove I have enough support to warrant receiving public money.   That’s the phase we are in now – I have to raise between $40,000-$200,000 in individual contributions in increments of $100 or less.  So where as a big money candidate can make one call and get $1,600 – I have to make 16 or more calls for that same amount.  That’s where I am now.  Then in October I have to get Maine registered voters to start giving $5 contributions to the Clean Elections Fund (not me) and get 3200 signatures to qualify and get initial public funding.  Then after every additional 800 people give $5 and sign I can receive additional funding up to a total of 1 million in the primary and 2 million more in the general election  – but to do so mutate get a total of 16,000 people signing on and giving $5 – .  This is huge lift – but think that when we are done we will have personally talked to 16,000 people.  It will also likely leave us at a monetary disadvantage to privately funded candidates, but I believe that the grass roots organizing will make up for it – in a way that has integrity and honor for the Maine people.

Any final thoughts or comments? And where can readers go to find more information or support you?

Our system is broken.  Everyone knows it.  Everyone can feel it.  It is time for us to decide if we want to keep going as is, or if we are going to change it.  And we can fear the change or forge the change.   Change it to bring out the best in Maine.   Change it so we have hope and trust in our system.  Change it so we leave our state a place where our children and our children’s children can and want to live and prosper.   Who can get elected?  WE DECIDE.  Maine people decide.  Not pollsters or predictors.  When we talk to our neighbors, treat this as an “all hands on deck” moment in history and get involved we can make the impossible the probable.  That is what my campaign is all about.  I am so excited to work with so many wonderful people in this state.  It is an honor.  People can sign up to help and volunteer on our website – www.SweetforGovernor.com, our FB page, Sweet for Governor, our twitter and instagram accounts – @sweet4governor.   We need help canvassing, host a house party – have a “fun raiser”  – join our tour across the state –  And you can always call me – 207-441-3060.  This is a people’s campaign.  We can’t wait to have you join us.  Just think how Sweet it could be !

Thank you to Betsy for answering my questions! To check out my other Candidate Interviews click here. More will be coming soon, with the goal of providing a digestible, short glimpse into almost all of the candidates running for Governor, CD2 and more. Be sure to like Mainely Politics Facebook to see any blog entries or candidate interviews.

 

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