In disturbing news from Maine, an organization called “EqualityMaine” has been doing phone calls for a Democratic Party candidate telling voters that there are only two candidates on the ballot in the 28th State Senate District instead of three. They have been ignoring Green Party candidate Lynne Williams, an Equality Maine supporter.
See this story from the Maine Island Ad-Vantages and Weekly Packet: “EqualityMaine dismisses Williams as viable candidate”:
Over the course of the last week, many voters across Hancock County have received calls from EqualityMaine volunteers, and in the Penobscot Bay Press coverage area, those volunteers are specifically stumping for Democratic Senate 28 candidate Jim Schatz. Schatz is in a three-way race with Republican Brian Langley and Green Independent Lynne Williams.
The calls, according to Smith, are scripted, and volunteers are expected to read from the script during each call. She said that while there are three candidates who will appear on the November 2 ballot, EqualityMaine believes there are only “two major candidates and that [Lynne Williams] is not a contributing factor in this campaign.” Smith said that according to polling data (source not specified) Williams does not have a chance to win the election. “We are not trying to be mean; this is nothing subjective,” said Smith. “It is a factual statement that if someone votes for [Lynne Williams] the vote does not go to a viable candidate.”
According to its Web site, EqualityMaine is “Maine’s oldest and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political advocacy organization.” While supporting issues that are important to the organization, volunteers have taken to the phones to stump for candidates they believe to be in line with their policies.
EqualityMaine is known for its work in supporting issues that affect the LGBT community and most recently same-sex marriage. In this year’s election cycle, the organization is actively endorsing candidates who supported last year’s “Act to Promote Marriage Equality and Affirm Religious Freedom,” which was subsequently overturned by voters last November, according to the organization’s executive director, Betsy Smith. The organization has endorsed 140 candidates.
Not only does Williams take exception to the statements made by EqualityMaine, so do her opponents. “It is unfortunate,” said Schatz. “We are all looking for votes from the same pool of voters and I do see her as a viable candidate,” adding “that it is too bad,” and “not anything I have anything to do with.”
According to Williams, she has been an active supporter of EqualityMaine over the years, and a long time supporter of LGBT issues, and while she stands behind the organization’s right to endorse any candidate it chooses, she believes that telling would-be voters she is not a viable candidate is “a slap in the face as well as an attempt to manipulate the election.”
All three candidates, said Williams, are Clean Election candidates and therefore all begin at the same place. “We all have the same amount of funding, are invited to the same forums, are all on the radio, have all been profiled by area newspapers and have all walked door to door.”
Williams said the calls were brought to her attention by a number of her supporters who had actually received them. However, those who received the calls were not only Williams’ supporters.
One person who received a call from EqualityMaine was Jane Langley, wife of Republican opponent Brian Langley. According to Langley she received a call Thursday evening, October 14, while her husband was at a candidates forum at the Deer Isle-Stonington High School. “I knew they had been making calls because one of our [employees] received one,” she said, but continued to listen to the caller. She said she was told there were two candidates in the race and when she asked about Williams was told “we’re not counting the third candidate as viable.” She said the caller went on to talk about the voting records of both Brian Langley and Jim Schatz as it pertained to the marriage equality act. She said that even when she interrupted to tell the caller her name, the caller was unable to make the connection at first. “It was clear the person was reading from a script,” she said.
Candidate Brian Langley said he rejected the approach used by EqualityMaine and said he does recognize Williams as a viable candidate. He said the tactics taken by EqualityMaine “are the sorts of things that keep good people out of running for office.”
“When an organization turns on its friends, I think is about time for a good soul-searching. What EqualityMaine is doing is trying to marginalize me as a candidate and if any community should understand marginalization, it is the LGBT community,” said Williams.