10/30/2013 2:00:00 PM U.S. Senate Candidate Campaigns in Lincoln County
By J.W. Oliver
U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, the only candidate to date to challenge Sen. Susan Collins, the popular Republican incumbent, campaigned in Lincoln County Oct. 25.
U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows (right) speaks with Maria Northcott of Damariscotta at Skidompha Public Library Oct. 25. (J.W. Oliver photo)
Bellows was the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine for eight years prior to entering the race.
A native of Hancock and resident of Manchester, she has ties to Lincoln County through her paternal grandfather, Bill Bellows, who owns a camp on Damariscotta Lake in Nobleboro.
A Democrat, Bellows bills herself as a "libertarian-progressive" who can appeal to libertarian-leaning Republicans.
The day the news of her candidacy came out, she received a call from one such voter, she said. Bellows recounted the conversation in a brief interview.
The man said, "'I want a bumper sticker. I'm a lifelong Republican, but I'm really supportive of constitutional freedoms,'" Bellows said.
A longtime opponent of the Patriot Act, Bellows also opposes federal government surveillance of citizens and supports efforts to legalize marijuana.
As executive director of the ACLU of Maine, she was active in the 2009 and 2012 campaigns to allow same-sex marriage in the state, as well as the 2011 campaign to restore same-day voter registration.
Bellows fielded questions and talked about a range of issues during a meeting with a small group of local residents at Skidompha Public Library in Damariscotta.
The candidate, in response to one question, said she would like to examine government regulations that can hurt small businesses.
"I think there's a tendency, sometimes, to want to over-control or over-regulate or ... require so much reporting of data that it's a hindrance," Bellows said. "Why don't we have a deregulation bill that's deregulating small business instead of deregulating big business?"
Bellows criticized the current, gridlocked Congress and touted her ability to work with members of both parties.
"I think the sequester and the shutdown and the default debacle are really unforgivable, and I think we need a new approach," she said.
Bellows worked with Democrats and Republicans in the Maine Legislature to pass a cellphone privacy bill and override Gov. Paul LePage's veto this year.
"We were one of only two states in the country to pass cellphone privacy legislation, and we were one of only five veto overrides" during the legislative session, she said.
The new law requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant, in most situations, to access the cellphone data that can enable officers to track a person's location.
Bellows described the bipartisan coalition as an "interesting group of people who don't agree on social issues, but do agree on our shared values that are rooted in the Constitution's Bill of Rights."
The U.S. "absolutely" needs "a more fiscally responsible government," Bellows said. The federal government wastes "billions of dollars" to spy on Americans and act as "the world's policeman" at the expense of practical needs like roads and bridges, she said.
The country needs "transformative policy change" on climate change, she said. "I really think climate change is threatening both the environment and also, potentially, our economy, because they're so interconnected," she said.
"I certainly think this race is going to require a broad grassroots coalition from all across the state," Bellows said after the meeting. "I think this race requires a full and fair debate of the ideas that are going to bring our country forward and restore our constitutional freedoms and restore economic opportunity."
"Carpenter's daughters don't usually run for federal office because these races cost millions, and that's why we have a congress of millionaires instead of a congress of working people," she said. "I'm in this race to change that."
Bellow's parents were active in Hancock town government and civic organizations while she was growing up, she said. Later, she volunteered as a page for then-U.S. Sen. George Mitchell at a Democratic convention, an "incredibly inspiring" experience.
"I've always wanted to make the world a better place," she said, "so this is a great opportunity."
Bellows also visited the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and Washburn & Doughty Associates Inc. shipyard in Boothbay as part of a five-day tour of Maine's 16 counties.
Bellows is a graduate of Ellsworth High School and Middlebury College.
She was a research associate with the economic consulting firm Economists Incorporated, served in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and worked for the ACLU in Washington, D.C. before returning to Maine.
She lives in Manchester with her husband, Brandon Baldwin, the schools and curriculum coordinator of the Maine Civil Rights Team Project.