Last fall, Mainers voted by a 9.9-point margin to expand the Maine Clean Election Act. That vote has already affected candidates’ decisions as to how to finance their campaigns, with the percentage of candidates for the Legislature seeking Clean Elections funding up significantly from 2014.

Unfortunately, years of Maine legislators raiding the Maine Clean Election Fund for other purposes have left it vulnerable to running dry this year. Some candidates who are using the program may have already passed up large private donations because they trusted in what Mainers had voted into law. Over the years, lawmakers have taken more than $6 million out of the fund. Fortunately, just restoring the $1.7 million taken out last year will give the Maine Clean Election Fund enough money to cover its expenditures this year.

I know there are a lot of competing needs for state government’s limited financial resources. But Maine voters have twice determined that Clean Elections makes the cut. I believe that running for office, talking to potential constituents about their concerns and their ideas and yours, can be a public service in and of itself. But the extent to which it can be a public service is limited if candidates have to focus on getting big donations, or dip into their own savings, to be able to mount a campaign that can communicate their ideas in a way that will reach people and stay with them.

To reach the top levels of public funding, Clean Elections candidates will have to collect more and more $5 contributions from voters in their district, requiring them to keep going out and connecting with voters. That’s what candidates should be doing anyway, not seeking large donations from people who might not be from their district or even from Maine.

Kevin Lamoreau

Augusta