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Youngest woman in the Legislature

Some people sum up Chloe Maxmin’s 2018 Maine House of Representatives win in the usually Republican-leaning rural District 88 as a “blue wave” victory. But Maxmin, at 26 the youngest woman in the Legislature, herself credits a campaign based on a message of common humanity and old-fashioned door-knocking. She got some help developing canvassing skills from Emerge Maine training, including from Janet Mills herself.

Photo by Heidi Kirn

Knocking on 10,000 doors in small towns like Chelsea, Whitefield, Jefferson and Nobleboro isn’t the easiest way to win an election. But it worked.

“We ran a 100 percent positive campaign,” Maxmin says, “and we took the time to drive down long driveways to talk with people about actual issues, like folks who are choosing between whether to put food on their table or pay for their prescriptions. I went to talk with people two or three times so that I developed an actual relationship rather than just asking for their vote. This whole experience was about, ‘Can we do politics differently? Can we engage with people in a meaningful and empowering way?’”

In nearly every utterance about her 10 months of campaigning, Maxmin uses the pronouns “we” and “our.”

“Sometimes we had 30 people in a room ready to canvass in District 88, and it was incredible,” Maxmin says, adding that a lot of volunteers canvassed for the first time in their lives. “Nothing happens with just one person. We didn’t build this rural movement with just one person. We built it together because we think politics as usual has been failing us and we can do it a better way. Winning just further emphasized how ready we are for politics that is kind, honest and truly built as a community.”

Growing up on a farm in Nobleboro where her family raised venison, Maxmin observed the effects of climate change on the land, the woods, the lakes and the behavior of animals. By the time she was 12, she was writing to local newspapers. At Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, she started the Climate Action Club. At Harvard, she co-founded a campaign calling on the university to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, and Divest Harvard grew into a movement of 70,000 people. She graduated with a degree in social studies and a minor in environmental science and public policy; founded First Here, Then Everywhere, a project where she interviewed young climate change activists; worked for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign; and wrote for “The Nation.” All this before she was elected to the Maine House of Representatives.

“This past year has been about getting more women in office, and we’re getting there,” Maxmin says. “But part of this wave has been saying that we need all voices at the table. The people in the State House should represent the people of Maine, and that includes men, women, older folks, younger folks, and people of all backgrounds and identities.”

“This past year has been about getting more women in office, and we’re getting there, but part of this wave has been saying that we need all voices at the table.”

Taking cues from thousands of roadside chats, Maxmin wants to fight for affordable health care, a healthy planet, good schools, well-paying jobs, debt-free higher education and food security.

“I want to do my community proud,” she says. “Everything I’ve done in the State House so far centers around: ‘What would my community want?’ My goal is to represent and reflect the needs and hopes of my community in Augusta, to be honest, and to bring integrity to this process. This is my home, and where I want to spend my life.”

Amy Paradysz lives in Scarborough and writes about women, organizations and community happenings that empower.