Maine Moves Into High Gear

In a campaign that promises to go down to the wire, Maine voters will be the first to weigh in on marriage equality since the vote on Proposition 8.

BY Kerry Eleveld

August 10 2009 11:00 PM ET

"Maine is a much smaller state, so we don't have to identify six million people, we have to identify 250,000 people -- 50% of the people who are predicted to vote in November," says Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine.

When the "No on 1/Protect Maine Equality" campaign began in July, Smith said they had already identified 25% -- or about 52,000 -- of the pro-gay marriage voters needed to win.

"One of the things that we know about Maine is that when we pass something through the legislature, we have to defend it at the polls," she says. "So we started [the legislative] campaign three-and-a-half years ago and we've been talking with Maine voters for three years." While both New Hampshire and Vermont recently legalized same-sex marriage, neither state's constitution affords the opportunity for a people's veto.

Though No on 1 has secured 60,000 pledges against the measure and in favor of preserving marriage equality, campaign manager Jesse Connolly is preparing to battle some of the very same messages about children and what will be taught in schools that Schubert Flint deployed in California.

"We are not underestimating them," he says. "It's going to be a close election -- every internal poll that I've seen shows it's very close."

Connolly, a 30-year-old straight ally with a wife and a young son, has a good track record in Maine politics. He ran Maine for Kerry/Edwards in 2004 and took all four electoral votes; he served as campaign manager to successfully defeat a 2005 people's veto that sought to remove gays and lesbians from the state's human rights code (gays had previously been added to the code twice by Maine's legislature and removed twice by its voters, in 1998 and 2000); and he managed Gov. John Baldacci's victorious reelection bid in 2006.

Tags: Politics

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