Vote or Quit Bitchin’ 2006
Local election coverage
Voters’ Guide: State House District 118
The temptation of John Eder
By Chris Busby and Erik Eisele
State Rep. John Eder, at present Maine’s only Green Independent state legislator, seems to be adjusting to traditional Maine politics. Of course, most folks consider that a bad thing.
Eder’s in a scrappy race for a third term representing Portland’s West End (the district also includes parts of the Oakdale and Libbytown neighborhoods off the peninsula). The Democrats, foiled in their past two attempts to topple the Green icon, have decided to fight fire with fire – or in this case, Green with green. They’ve convinced environmental lobbyist and lawyer Jon Hinck, a former Greenpeace rabble-rouser, to make his first run for public office against Eder this year.
Hinck’s challenge is all about party politics. He argues that as a Democrat, he’ll work more closely and constructively with members of the (for now, at least) majority party in the Legislature, and thus is better positioned to get things done. Hinck’s critical of what he says is Eder’s unwillingness to help push forward the Dems’ progressive agenda and beat back Republican efforts to stymie bills favored by the Donkey Party.
But, of course again, that’s exactly why so many voters want Eder in office – he’s not beholden to either party’s agenda or leadership.
On the issues, Jon and John are nearly identical: against TABOR, for a local-option tax, against the death penalty, in favor of banning assault weapons. Both candidates support rights for gay and lesbian couples equal to those heteros have. And both are staunchly pro-choice.
But here we return to the original point: Eder’s progress (or descent) as a political animal. Earlier this month, District 118 voters got automated phone calls recorded by Annie Lunt, president of the Maine chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Lunt praised Eder and said NOW is “very concerned about [Hinck's] stance on a woman’s right to choose.”
In an Oct. 22 column, Press Herald scribe Bill Nemitz looked into these “robocalls” and revealed that Eder paid for them, helped write their text, and that NOW lent its authority to them on the basis of questionnaire responses by Hinck that would hardly cause a pro-choice voter to be “very concerned” about his stance on the issue. (Hinck gave qualified support to the restoration of Medicaid funding for abortion and had a minor quibble with the wording of a question asking if abortion should “always be legal,” citing his opposition to forced abortion by alien overlords or some similarly despotic authority, like the Chinese government.)
Rather than follow up with Hinck, NOW took the cash and tossed its credibility to the winds of the West End. Eder got rightly scolded in the daily for perpetrating “a political slime job” – though Nemitz’ politically charged term for this, getting “Greened,” reveals his cheap partisan leanings – and the state ethics commission has ordered the candidate to pony up $100 for failing to disclose the fact he paid for the calls in the “robo-message” itself.
However, this isn’t the first time the ethics commission has been called to look into this race. Before Robogate, Hinck had complained that Eder was using his logo (an illustration of a head and a lightbulb done by Portland artist Patrick Corrigan) both as a campaign tool and in materials, printed and mailed on the public’s dime, sent to voters as part of Eder’s legislative work. The commission, as The West End News reported, didn’t find the use of this logo on campaign materials a problem.
Other than abortion, there are a couple other issues the candidates differ on slightly. Hinck said he was uncertain whether he supports more gambling in Maine; Eder’s inclined to let individual communities decide. Hinck also expressed uncertainty over the question of Peaks Island secession, but Eder said the island should be allowed to secede.
Both were murky on ways to help Maine retain a fishing industry, and both said their support for the law allowing communities to create “drug-free safe zones” would depend on the wording of the bill. (Both would be smart to read the legislation legalizing the zones state lawmakers passed last year, especially Eder, who let this backward bill slide through without a peep.)
If Eder prevails this year, it’d likely take an alien invasion to deny him a fourth term in this House seat should he want it in ’08. If Hinck wins the day, it may be the first time robots caused the downfall of a human politician. Fellow flesh-and-blood voters, let’s pray it’s also the last.