On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the University of Maine welcomed the state of Maine’s current governor, Janet Mills, during a rally in front of the Fogler Library steps facing the University Mall.
Mills was joined by Maine State Senate candidate Mike Tipping, Representative Laurie Osher and former State Senator Emily Cain, who is now the executive director of the Democratic political action committee Emily’s List.
This rally was held to encourage UMaine students to get out and vote in the upcoming election, as the Maine Democratic Party seeks to hold onto both the gubernatorial position and its majority in the Maine State Legislature.
The UMaine College Democrats President, Maredyth Waters, kicked off the event by reiterating the importance of exercising one’s right to vote, especially toward the young generation of students in attendance.
“You guys have the power to sway this election; you have to use it,” Waters said.
Candidate Mike Tipping followed Waters’ introduction by crediting a majority of the success he has found thus far to the university’s political action clubs and students who have dedicated countless hours going door to door in order to get the word out about his presence in this year’s election.
Tipping has been heavily involved in fighting pollution in the nearby Penobscot River. In early October, the lawsuit he had been a part of for 14 years that dealt with the dumping of 12 metric tons of mercury into the river by the chemical company Mallinckrodt has now reached a satisfactory settlement to fund cleanup efforts. This milestone, Tipping noted, is now known to be the largest ecosystem-like cleanup that citizen action has ever forced in this country.
Mike Tipping has also served as spokesperson for the Minimum Wage Referendum, which successfully raised the minimum wage requirement in Maine to nearly $13 an hour.
“Change happens when communities of people come together over time and refuse to give up,” Tipping stated.
Representative Laurie Osher took center stage next to discuss her involvement with climate change efforts in the state, specifically through finding ways to store carbon. She also encouraged UMaine students to register to vote in Orono, even if they may have roots in other states.
“Almost 80% of the people in this district… are 35 and under. Almost 40% in this district are 25 and under,” Osher explained.
In sharing these statistics, Osher said that in order to have the voices of the youth in Maine heard in the legislature, they should highly consider registering to vote right here in Orono.
Emily Cain was the last guest speaker before Governor Mills took over for the remainder of the rally, and she used this opportunity to endorse Mills for re-election.
“[Mills] thinks about the whole state of Maine every time a problem comes her way… I have seen her work through the night to do the right thing for Maine people, whether it’s on budgets, whether it’s on climate… on job creation, on public education, on all of it. Our governor is holding the line for us every single day,” Cain said.
Cain also spoke on the importance of being able to make one’s own healthcare decisions, which is an ongoing issue that will appear on the ballot this November. Maine currently has safe access to abortion, which has the potential to change if the Democrats lose the governor’s seat. The young voters at UMaine hold great power in ensuring this healthcare right is maintained by exercising their right to vote.
Mills spoke heavily In regards to climate change efforts, and she reflected on the efforts of the Climate Action Council, which she helped create soon after taking office. A key goal of Maine’s plan to fight climate change is to become carbon neutral by 2045, which Mills said may happen sooner due to the state’s current track record.
Mills also discussed expanding healthcare in the state. Former Governor of Maine Paul LePage attempted to block the majority will of the Maine people in this regard during his time in office.
Mills’ personal efforts to expand healthcare access to all Mainers began shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the aftermath of these unprecedented times, she noted that Maine has experienced the 11th-highest economic recovery in the country and that the Commonwealth Fund awarded Maine some of the highest marks for how it has fared through the last few years. The governor credits Maine’s pandemic response to the state’s CDC, which she praised for its willingness to be open and honest with all citizens even when its officials were unsure of what was to come.
Before ending her speech, Governor Mills urged all to consider what key issues are at stake this November before hitting the polls.
“Think about healthcare. Think about climate change. Think about abortion. Think about our economy. Think about democracy. We can’t go back,” Mills said.
All attendees were then invited to participate in a group photo with the governor as the rally concluded.
Same-day voter registration will be available on the UMaine campus at the New Balance Field House and Memorial Gym on election day, Nov. 8. For more information regarding the general election, visit Maine.gov.