Lone Democrat In Primaries Hoping to Unseat Angus King
by Ryan Mains
(Portland, Maine)- In terms of political popularity, it’s hard to top Angus King. One of the only two Independent Senators in Congress, King is up for re-election this year in what might be one of the safest seats in what will likely be a hotly contested election season. A recent poll placed King as the eight most popular Senator (with fellow Independent Bernie Sanders coming in at first while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was last), while the Cook Political Report ranked the chances of King keeping the seat as “solid”. Even Governor Paul LePage, despite the urging of President Trump, decided not to run, leaving State Senator Eric Brakey and financial planner Max Linn as the Republican primary candidates.
On the Democratic side stands Zak Ringelstein, former teacher and founder of UClass, a cloud-based resource for school districts. Endorsed by sixteen state legislators and left-leaning groups Berniecrats Maine and the Southern Maine Branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, Ringelstein hopes to overcome King’s popularity and help create a government without “PACs or lobbyists. Just people.”
Ringelstein was inspired to run by an invitation from President Barack Obama to help shape education policy, in which he “looked around the room, and I realized that there wasn’t a single other person, aside from myself, who had ever taught at a public school”. Believing the problem to be leaders making decisions in government aren’t “regular Americans” but “corporate executives who are profit-driven, not people-driven”, Zak decided to run for higher office.
As for Angus King, who he considers “a nice guy”, Ringelstein believes King isn’t the politician that’s needed right now. “This crisis moment in American history does not call for a big money, career politician to be re-elected into office,” he explained. “This moment calls for a progressive wave. [It] calls for real people to take action and make government work for real people.”
In terms of how he intends to actually make government work, Ringelstein identified the lack of economic growth and opportunity for the people of Maine as the biggest issue he hopes to solve. “We have seen growth in Southern Maine in recent years but according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine’s Second Congressional District is experiencing an economic depression worse than in the 1930s.” If elected, he hopes to enact a plan based around location-specific federal investment in entrepreneurship and existing businesses, pushing for comprehensive federal and state investment in infrastructure, and most notably, becoming one of the growing number of Democrats to endorse enacting Medicare-For-All, which would create a universal healthcare system so, in Zak’s words, “no Mainer is forced to pay a second mortgage to get the healthcare they need to survive and thrive.”
Ultimately, Ringelstein understands that beating King will be tough, but he believes that through a mixture of campaigning on “building an America where everyone can thrive, not just the top 1%” and the implementation of ranked-choice voting in the upcoming elections, he’ll be able to prevail, ending the conversation with a quote from Harvard professor Larry Lessig: “This is what love means, that the odds are irrelevant and that you do whatever the hell you can for things you love, the odds be damned.” And by campaigning as what he sees as “a true progressive” in the primaries and the general, Ringlstein hopes to beat the odds.