Democratic House Candidate Hopes to Inspire Next Generation of Voters
by Ryan Mains
(Bangor, Maine) – Lucas St. Clair, son of Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby and one of the four major congressional Democratic candidates hoping to unseat Bruce Poliquin, paid a visit to Husson University on Wednesday, March 21st. Following the event’s postponement on the account of massive snow storms the previous week, St. Clair, who had been invited to speak by the Husson Democrats, was excited to meet potential voters and fill those unfamiliar with him in on his story.
St. Clair’s big moment in the spotlight was his mother’s intensely controversial purchase of 120,000 acres of Maine land, which she intended to turn into a national park. When the locals that had used that land for hunting, lodging, and snowmobiling got upset, Lucas set out to turn the people around on the idea.
“After we withdraw the proposal to have some honest conversations, I got a Volkswagon van, I put a mattress in the back of it, and I drove up to Millinocket and slept out of the back of the van. And every morning, I’d look on the Bangor Daily News website or it’s Facebook page to see who was saying things about the park.” And while some would have been inclined to ignore online critics, Lucas did the opposite.
“The nastier the comments were, I’d click on their account, find their address and go to their house and knock on their door.” Laughing at the suggestion of it being a “manual Cambridge Analytica”, Lucas used these searches to find positive middle ground with the naysayers, and slowly but surely turned people around on the idea of a national park. With these hurdle cleared, it should’ve been smooth sailing, were it not for Republican victories in the 2014 election.
“[Everyone excited for the park] were waking up on Wednesday after election day in 2014 hoping that Mike Michaud and Emily Cain would be elected, and we’d be able to introduce legislation and get this thing rolling, and the exact opposite happened,” Lucas recalled, glumly. “Paul LePage had won another term, and Bruce Poliquin had been elected. (…) It was the worst morning.”
Poliquin would prove to be a thorn in St. Clair and his mother’s side, with Lucas going as far as to that Poliquin “started undermining us as soon as he got to Washington. He was going around Capitol Hill, talking to other Congressional members, saying, “These guys were trying to ruin Northern Maine.” Poliquin was able to turn Maine’s elected representatives against the idea, leading to Lucas and his mother approaching President Obama himself.
Obama’s administration, hoping to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park service, agreed to work with them. The final obstacle was a Congressional Field Hearing requested by Poliquin, held largely as a last-ditch effort to stop the park. Rather than allow the Democrats to call him in as their sole witness, Lucas urged them to call in a surprise witness the Republicans would never see coming.
“I flew down to Washington and talked to the minority’s staff, and urged them not to invite me, and to instead invite our Governor. Because if our governor comes, so does all the media who will chronicle all his crazy and turn the whole thing into a three-ring circus,” Lucas explained.
With the arrival of the governor, the media shined a light on the hearing, which was held in a town hall with “60-70 people, all of whom were supportive of the park.” Chuckling, Lucas regards the entire event as “totally validating” and that it “totally blew up in Poliquin’s face”.
With the full attention on them, Katahdin Woods and National Monument was established on August 24th, 2016, just a day prior to the anniversary.
In many ways, Lucas winning the nomination would feel like a showdown years in the making, with polling placing him within just 3 points of Poliquin in a hypothetical matchup, but what does he intend to campaign on, should he triumph in the primaries?
In running for Congress, St. Clair hopes to invest in rural Maine, which “took the longest to recover from the recession”, which he felt made a conservative change in 2014 and 2016 because they felt abandoned by the current administration. “We’ve got all these beautiful natural resources, but we’re not doing anything to build infrastructure.”
Alongside reversing Citizens United v FEC, which he sees as “a corruption of our democracy”, Lucas believes that the government should invest in broadband internet the same way it “built the electric grid in the 30’s”, stressing that it would be crucial for creating jobs and helping small businesses in Maine (“A friend once said that starting a business without internet is like building the biggest billboard you want and putting it in your basement. You’re looking really nice, but no one’s seeing it.”) and that these failures lay largely at the feet of Poliquin.
“All the while, while I’m thinking about these things, Bruce Poliquin is continuing to undermine all those things,” Lucas spelled out. “He’s brought back less than $2.5 billion dollars in SBA [Small Business Administration] grants to the 2nd district, which is the lowest in all 21 districts of New England. He voted to repeal the ACA, when this is the oldest district in the country. (…) Putting the tax code through and advocating for tax reform? That’s gonna put us $1.8 trillion in debt (…) And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, with Republicans saying we can’t invest in [infrastructure] and it gets worse and worse, then they don’t invest in it.”
As for the primary itself, St. Clair identified his largest opponent as Jared Golden, a former veteran and Assistant House Majority Leader in the Maine House of Representatives, but added that Jonathan Fulford, a farmer turned Maine Senate candidate who nearly unseated Senate President Mike Thibodeau, is “a pretty serious contender”. As for what will put him over the top, St. Clair admitted that he’ll need to show a strong ground game, “in terms of campaigning and fundraising.”, adding that in order to beat Bruce Poliquin, he’ll likely need to raise “at least $3 million.”
With the primaries on June 12th, and the general on November 7th, St. Clair isn’t afraid to admit he has a long road ahead of him, especially with the announcement that the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, will be opening an office in the district to assist Poliquin. But after a series of Democratic upsets in deep-red areas like Alabama and Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, it’s becoming increasingly clear that anything is possible in this election cycle.
As the meeting came to a close, St. Clair ended with a message of inspiration to the younger people in attendance, citing Obama’s famed “Pick up a clipboard and get involved” speech from Chicago last year as he urged the next generation of citizens to “get engaged in a campaign, because it feels empowering, with a lot of people on the same goal and everyone pushing in the same direction and believing in democracy. Because democracy only works when we work it, and the more people that are participating and taking an active role, the better off we’ll be.”