Radio Address: Sen. Alfond says new Legislature has chance to restore civility

Posted: April 29, 2016 | Senator Alfond, Weekly Radio Address

On Friday night, I left the State House after what was most likely my last day casting votes on the floor of the Senate for the people of Portland. It’s been an honor to be their state senator, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done on their behalf.

But despite all we’ve achieved over these eight years, I can’t help but note how the tone of our politics have changed — and not for the better. Hopefully, the next generation of lawmakers will have a chance to bring civility back to Augusta.

Hi, this is Senator Justin Alfond, the Democratic Leader in the Maine Senate.

After six years under Gov. Paul LePage, we’ve gotten used to name-calling, obstructionism, and the gleeful way the governor has done everything he can to throw wrenches in the gears of progress. Many of us have tried our best to do the people’s work in spite of him.

We weren’t always so accustomed to this kind of behavior. When I set foot in the Senate chamber for the first time in 2009, civility was the norm. Of course, people didn’t always agree. Senate President Libby Mitchell, a Democrat, and Minority Leader Kevin Raye, a Republican, had spirited disagreements about everything under the sun.

But at the end of the day, we all got along. We trusted that all of us in Augusta were there to represent our constituents as best we could.

Today, that spirit of civility and good faith has been replaced by a culture of fear, bitterness and distrust.

Leadership matters. And when leaders in our state insult their opponents and Maine people, make threats and behave badly, it trickles down. Too many members of the governor’s party have adopted his destructive style of politics. Some have indulged in his offensive statements and bullying persona. Others have bought into his no-compromise style of politics that puts progress out of reach.

But in my time in the Maine Senate, I have also known leaders who cared more about the work than about personality or politics. They represented Maine values, and believed that hard work, honesty, fairness and compromise can propel our state toward a better future.

Next year, many of us will be gone. Like me, some are being termed out. Some have decided to move on to the next chapter of their lives. Others will lose their elections.

Either way, the next Legislature will bring in a new day. And whoever is sitting in the Senate and the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to reset the culture in Augusta.

They can recognize that we’re all Mainers. We’re all in this together. And it’s easier to work together for all of our constituents, for everyone, than it is to constantly undermine and attack one another.

If they do, I know that they will be able to do great things. I hope they’ll have the strength to do just that.

This is Senator Justin Alfond. Thanks for listening.