Maine Democratic Socialists of America

From KeyWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Template:TOCnestleft Maine Democratic Socialists of America is the Maine affiliate of Democratic Socialists of America.

People First Portland

On November 3 2020, voters in Portland, Maine delivered a stinging rebuke to Mayor Kate Snyder and all but one city councilor by voting overwhelmingly to back four out of five referenda placed on the ballot by People First Portland (PFP). Portlanders supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour (62.4 percent), mandating Green New Deal building codes (59.5 percent), banning police use of facial recognition software (65.6 percent), and establishing rent control and tenant protections (58.3 percent).

All this despite the Chamber of Commerce, well-heeled developers, and the corporate headquarters of Airbnb spending $1,000,000 (nearly all of it in the final month) to defeat the measures. PFP, for its part, raised approximately $30,000 and relied on an all-volunteer effort spearheaded by members from the local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and coalition partners including the Southern Maine Labor Council (along with a half-dozen union locals), Black P.O.W.E.R. (formerly Black Lives Matter Portland), the Southern Maine Workers Center, Fair Rent Portland, Our Revolution Maine, the Portland Green Party, and Progressive Portland.

“People voted to build a more equitable city where people are cared for,” says PFP organizer Ana Lagunez. “We want a community that supports everyone, a more just community, one that points to possibility, not profit.”

“We won because people were sick of vague policy positions, they wanted to vote on things that make a material difference in our lives,” explains Em Burnett another PFP volunteer. “When the working class votes, when young people vote, we can win. The city council is not connected to the reality of people who are hurting in Portland.”

“The campaign shows that this is what people in Portland want,” notes Howa Mohamed, a member of the local DSA and Black P.O.W.E.R. “Their actions show why there is a lack of trust in the city council’s ability to reflect how the people feel.”

“This has been a long time coming,” notes Grayson Lookner, a former Bernie Sanders field organizer and Maine DSA member who was just elected to the state legislature for Portland’s District 37. “The city council dragged its feet and along comes DSA and says, ‘we can do this.’ The Democratic Party likes to say that it’s a party of small business owners and workers, of landlords and tenants. But they always seem to side against workers and tenants.”

Although coming up short, DSA members Anthony Emerson earned 47.5 percent of the vote for school board and Kate Sykes received 29.1 percent of the first-round vote in a four-way race, ending up in second place in the Ranked Choice Voting election with 43 percent in the instant runoff, while DSA-endorsed candidate April Fournier won her at-large city council race.[1]

Busing People to Stop Kavanaugh

Maine Democratic Socialists of America Checklist for Judge Kavanaugh

Maine Democratic Socialists of America offered a free bus for members to travel to Washington, D.C. to protest Judge Brett Kavanaugh from becoming a supreme court justice.[2]

The Google Doc reads in part:

"We earned a week delay, but now Maine people need to be in DC this Thursday. The bus leaves from Marginal Way park n ride in Portland at 9 PM Wednesday night (10/3) and returns Friday morning (10/5) at around 7 AM. Sleep on the bus both ways, and spend the day in DC making a difference to defeat Kavanaugh.

Bring a pillow, blanket, rain poncho, and black clothing. Be prepared for both cold and warm weather as the weather has been weird down there."

The Google Doc also included a checklist that asked if attendees would be willing to get arrested (see image).


According to Mike Sylvester writing on Maine Democratic Socialists of America Facebook page, November 12 2016;

Several months ago, while Bernie was still running, a bunch of us got together to talk about starting a Democratic Socialists of America chapter here in Maine. We now have the framework in place to move ahead with this and it is under the banner of the DSA that we have strategized a rather aggressive base building plan to accomplish at least three things:
1) Recruit like minded progressives who want to fight for justice across multiple issues and knock the heck out of the doors to rebuild the Bernie base, first in Portland and then immediately across the state.

What kind of issues? Save India Street and increase public health. Pass affordable housing reform initiatives. Protect the Bernie initiatives that we just voted in from being gutted, pass new progressive initiatives. Then, help start new chapters to build power statewide and to take on whatever the fight is in Lewiston, Augusta, Waterville, Bangor.
2) Train members how to carry out campaign strategy and to teach these methods to others. There are a lot of talented organizers in Portland and throughout the DSA. It is not rocket science but neither is it intuitive. You can fight City Hall and Augusta and Washington but you have to have a good plan that challenges power where it is weakest and you have to be disciplined. These are not character traits. These are skills that can be learned.
3) Build progressive and socialist electoral power no matter what the party with candidate organizers who understand that class and race and sexual orientation and environment and lots of other issues are all equal parts of the same fight. Your fight is my fight because my fight is your fight. We can't do it alone. We need to be focused and remember that we are fighting for a just society against incredible and concentrated power.

The agenda will be:
- What are the most important issues to Portland area (big swath Portland to include surrounding towns) residents given the election as well as the overwhelming success of many Bernie issues as initiatives?
- What are our opportunities to build power?
- What are the broad overview steps of a successful campaign?

- What are our next immediate steps to base build our DSA chapter including outreach, election of officers and writing of a charter.

2018 endorsements

Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America, April 19 2018;

Maine Clean Elections funding powers truly democratic elections. Southern Maine DSA endorsed Clean Elections candidates Betsy Sweet For Governor, Jeremy Mele For State Representative, Mike Sylvester, and Bob Maheu only have until tomorrow, April 20 to submit their $5 qualifying contributions. Will you help keep our democracy accountable to citizens, not corporations?[3]

Final 2018 endorsements

Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America Final 2018 endorsements:


Membership surge/alliances

In this critical political moment, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the only organization actively asserting that health care, housing, education, and racial justice are basic human rights. Its members, unafraid to call for an overhaul of capitalism, are working to gain electoral power in Maine and across the country.

Journalist Francis Flisiuk, a registered Democrat, decided to attend the Southern Maine DSA’s July 2018 monthly meeting at Portland City Hall to find out how these lefties organize and approach progressive issues.

With crucial midterm elections approaching and a general sense of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party, I, a registered Dem, thought maybe I’d finally find my political tribe. At the very least, I was curious to learn what my options are.

Meg Reilly, the chair of the Southern Maine DSA, told Flisiuk that their typical meetings are attended by about 25 people seated together in a circle. Kind of like a socialist Knights of the Round Table with everyone having an equal voice.

“We’re getting a lot of curiosity and excitement,” said Reilly. “People see that the system isn't working and ask us all the time what they can do about it.”

Almost 100 people attended the meeting, half of them newcomers. They were inspired to learn more about socialism after hearing about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset in New York.

Today, they have almost 45,000 members, as opposed to the 6,000 members they had just four years ago. The Portland chapter of the DSA is seeing bump in their numbers too, and have about 300 dues-paying members.

Laura Motley is a 32-year-old Portlander who started the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, an organization advocating for gun-control legislation. Motley was one of several first-timers at the meeting. She said she wanted to come for a while because although she’s been voting Democratic all her life, she’s never been fully satisfied with the party. After her first meeting, Motley said that socialism suddenly clicked in her head as a viable option, and she’s considering becoming a member.

“Situations haven’t improved in the eight years that Obama has been in power,” said Motley. “We should all join the rest of the progressive world. The tide is moving toward socialism. When the boomers retire or die, it’s going to happen. I have conversations with my parents who are centrist democrats urging them to get on the right side of history. But there’s a strange fear of disrupting the status quo and I think we need to get over that.”

Motley said she wants to join the DSA because she’s tired of posting about her political grievances on social media and is ready to engage in direct action.

What initially struck me about the Southern Maine DSA meeting was how ideologically diverse it was. I sat next to two men, one a self-described centrist, the other a self-described anarchist. Some DSA members described themselves as communist, others as social democrats. Some believed the free-market could be reformed to decrease inequality — like the Scandinavian model of strict regulations and high taxes — others voiced more radical ideas of redistribution. Representatives from the Maine People’s Alliance and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby were there seeking an endorsement from the DSA. And there were plenty of disaffected Democrats there too.

“It boils down pretty simply to empowering the working class to take democratic control over the systems that they live and work in,” said Jonathon Torsch, a Portland resident and DSA member. “We just want to make sure we’re creating a space where people can recognize that a left movement needs to happen because corporations continue to co-opt all our lives to make a profit. And we may have different approaches of getting there.”

Torsch describes the DSA as a “broad tent” — a coalition of people from different ethnic, social and political backgrounds including members of the Democratic, Green, Independent, Socialist, and Working People’s Parties. The DSA is not a political party and doesn’t align itself with a single political party. These aren’t Bernie-or-bust folks either, as Torsch notes, “socialism is much bigger than Bernie or one candidate,” and they don’t automatically endorse candidates from the Democratic Party.

“I was once a proud young Democrat,” said Corey Butler, a UMaine graduate and dues-paying DSA member. “Like all good millennials, I was all about Obama because he made a lot of ambitious promises. It was easy to get swept up in that hope. But I didn’t see any meaningful change. Ultimately he was molded into the machine.”

There is, however, a fair amount of disagreement, even in the local chapter, as to how members will achieve this post-capitalist future, most easily divided between the incrementalists and the radicals. Should DSA members support progressive political candidates and try to work within the system of electoral politics to change it? Or should they embrace more revolutionary strategies like members of the International Socialist Organization — an older group which believes that overthrowing capitalism isn’t possible electorally — do?

“Even as we unite as a chapter under an anti-capitalist framework we debate that question all the time,” said Reilly. “We’ve agreed that we’d do a little bit of electoralism, but that’s not the only way forward. There are a lot of people in the middle who want to do a bit of both.”

The shared desire for a more equitable society is enough to fuel productive collaboration between its members, and they use a "middle-of-the-road" kind of approach to remain welcoming. DSA members can be found mobilizing around electoral strategies, but they also are down to engage in protest and civil disobedience.

In a political climate fraught with bitter partisanship, the display of collaboration at the DSA meeting was more than a little inspiring. Where else could I see radical anarchists shaking hands with democratic socialists like House Rep. Mike Sylvester, who does believe in the merits of reform and electoral strategies? Or take Zak Ringelstein for example, the candidate running against Independent Angus King in the Senate. He was there at the meeting enthusiastically sharing ideas of a progressive future with folks. If Ringelstein, who's running as a Democrat, is comfortable aligning himself with socialists, maybe I should be too?

“I'm proud to stand with the DSA as we fight for economic and social justice in Maine and across America,” said Ringelstein. "A moral government can and should be a force for pulling people out of poverty, but we can only achieve this when elected officials are responsive to ordinary Americans instead of just the wealthy and powerful. I look forward to partnering with Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other bold leaders in Congress to deliver Medicare For All, a Green New Deal, college debt relief, and other vital reforms that will bolster the working class and reduce income inequality.”

“Right-wingers often quote how many people have died in socialist countries, but we have millions of people dying under capitalism here,” said Torsch. “Not in a third world country. Here.”

Here in Maine, a number of Democratic Socialists are running for seats in the Maine House of Representatives, including Mike Sylvester (District 39), Tim Goodwin (District 23) and Jeremy Mele (District 19).

The Southern Maine DSA is considering endorsing all three of these candidates and told me that much of the work in their chapter involves deciding which campaigns and candidates to back.

“People are really clamoring for our endorsement,” said Reilly. “I never would have thought that a couple years ago people would be seeking a stamp of approval from the socialists.”

This year, they have many to consider, including a candidate for governor. They endorsed clean election candidate Betsy Sweet during the primary, but have yet to come out in support of anyone for the general election. The members I spoke to seemed reluctant to say anything nice about Democratic candidate Janet Mills, who they consider to have earned a lackluster record on a number of progressive issues during her time as Attorney General, including her position on indigenous rights and her ruling that last year’s police shooting of a mentally ill man was justified.

They endorsed local activist, web developer, and fellow DSA member Joey Brunelle in his first attempt at running for City Council last year because they agreed with his positions on rent stabilization, property tax relief, and a more transparent approach to allocating city funds. The group is accepting applications for endorsement for this year’s races through August 1.

In Portland, there are many ways to get involved with the DSA or their affiliated events that don’t require becoming a dues-paying member. Currently, the DSA is partnering with the International Socialist Organization to plan a massive protest against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a nominee they fear will roll back abortion rights. Members are hosting a planning meeting on July 24 at 6 pm at Local Sprouts and encourage individuals and other progressive organizations to join.

The Southern Maine DSA is also working with the Southern Maine Workers’ Center’s bid to bring mandatory earned paid sick leave to all workers in Portland, and are asking folks to show up to the Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Tuesday at Portland City Hall wearing red to show support for the measure. They’re also considering working with the Maine People’s Alliance’s Universal Home-Care For All campaign, which would close a tax loophole and make in-home care for Maine’s seniors more affordable.

“If you look back in history, a lot of the problems that are going on today have already happened in one form or another,” said Marc Normandin, a Southern Maine DSA member who started the book club (and recommends reads like “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, “A People’s History of the United States,” by Howard Zinn, and “White Trash: A 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” by Nancy Isenberg). “There were a lot of problems in this country before Donald Trump was president, and they’ll remain here when he’s gone.”

All in all, despite misconceptions about the DSA, and decades of propaganda and paranoia around socialism in general, their agenda seems to be about encouraging democracy, not stifling it.

“True democracy doesn’t exist in America, and it never has,” said Kate Sykes, the Secretary of the Southern Maine DSA. “Socialism wants to change that. We have the power to define our own humanity. Come to a meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America, and you’ll see evidence of selflessness and solidarity at work.”[4]

Local dignitaries

Harlan Baker January 9, 2018:


Mike Desjardins speaking on what socialism means to him at last night’s Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America meeting. In addition to electing new officers, a representative from the Southern Maine Workers Center spoke about the current campaign for Paid Family Leave in Portland. Others in attendance were State reps Mike Sylvester, and Ben Collings. Democratic US Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein and Mayor Ethan Strimling were there as as observers.

2019 Steering Committee

Maine Democratic Socialists of America steering committee 2019.

2018 Officers

Maine Democratic Socialists of America officers 2018.

At-Large Members

Get Money Out of Politics


Get Money Out of Politics - featuring Larry Lessig. Hosted by Zak Ringelstein , Sweet For Governor, Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America, Sierra Club Maine

Saturday, April 7 at 1 PM - 3 PM.

Luther Bonney Hall, Portland, Maine 77059.

We at Ringelstein for U.S. Senate are thrilled to announce that we are hosting a summit on the importance of getting money out of politics on April 7, 2018 from 1:00-3:00pm at the University of Southern Maine.
Lawrence Lessig|Larry Lessig, leading academic on corruption in American politics, will keynote the event.
The event will also feature a talk by University of Maine School of Law Dean Danielle Conway and small discussions led by the Sierra Club Maine, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, Equality Maine, Southern Maine DSA, and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections. In addition, there will be a panel discussion on corruption with Senator Justin Chenette (Saco), Rep. Mike Sylvester (Portland), gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet, and former Rep. Harlan Baker.

Labor Notes conference


Maine Democratic Socialists of America shared Cynthia Phinney's post.

April 6 at 7:48pm · Rosemont, IL

Team Maine hits the Labor Notes Conference, Chicago, USA.

With Linda Deane, Sarah Bigney, Doug Born, Adam Goode, Matthew Beck, Barney McClelland and Garrett Stewart.[7]

Conquering the Democrats


Maine Democratic Socialists of America posted on Facebook November 18 2017 at 5:53am ·

Good night for the DSA slate at the Cumberland County Democrats:
Harlan Baker and Kathleen Worcester are now Vice Chairs
Barney McClelland is now Secretary
Tim Goodwin is now Treasurer
Shannon McCartney came within 4 votes of taking the Chair.
It is time for a new direction!

National convention delegates


Maine Democratic Socialists of America August 5, 2017;

We are all are having so much fun at the DSA Convention in Chicago! We can't wait to share what we have learned at our next meeting August 14th at Portland City Hall 🌹 — with Carl E. Pease, Mikayla Damon and Mike Sylvester.

Pingree connection


Harlan Baker with Joey Brunelle and Jeremy Mele and Seth Berner. May 11, 2017 at 1:09pm

Members of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists meet with Jesse Connolly, chief of staff for Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Topics ranged from health care to crafting progressive messages and programs.

Anti-Gorsuch rally

March 2017, Portland joined several cities across the nation for a series of rallies under the name, “The People’s Defense.” Protests were centered around the slogan: We Object. Pro-democracy and civil rights advocates objected to a number of issues — Trump’s travel ban, spikes in hate crimes, health care reform, budget cuts to the EPA, Internet privacy — but most were focused on what they considered the most pressing and important: the nomination of Trump’s pick for Supreme Court Judge, Neil Gorsuch.

About 150 voters gathered on Sunday at Portland’s City Hall to object to Gorsuch, a candidate who’s both praised and criticized for his conservative views and strict constitutionalist perspective. One can see the ideological divide over Gorsuch locally in recent stories from the Portland Press Herald which report that a group of 98 Maine lawyers wrote and signed a letter in opposition to Gorsuch to Maine’s Senators, while a separate group of 49 signed one in support.

The speakers at the rally included former State Rep. and Bernie voter Diane Russell; Mike Sylvester, a State Rep. for District 39, and founding member of the Maine Democratic Socialists of America; Glen Brand, the chapter director at the Maine Sierra Club; Barney McClelland from the AFL-CIO; Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesney; and Michael Langenmayr, a steering committee member of the advocacy group Progressive Portland.[8]

Strong support

Strong support.PNG

Maine Democratic Socialists of America meeting Monday, November 21 at 7 PM - 8:30 PM, Portland City Hall (Maine) 389 Congress St Rm 102, Portland, Maine.

Those indicating attendance on Facebook included;

Planned Parenthood Rally


Maine Democratic Socialists of America, February 11, 2017; ·

Planned Parenthood Rally — with Barbara White, Jeremy Mele, Belinda McClelland Cummings and Barney McClelland.

Maine DSA Public Facebook Group

As of May 12, 2017;[9]





More members had been added by October 15.

Maine DSA Carpool Closed Facebook Group


As of May 11, 2017;[10]



DSA signatures




  1. [1]
  2. [0=68.ARAbXGaFPuLzwaRGQygJN66-GnmqFhXeKFtNU3acihG7FJ-VoqDCfdzERFLFvqGMXaEVN7fzmKCojQ2e4tTVfk1dKSRyGCbYCPATJTfBv7JF4KIgjyz_95jt6_KXugx84G32KGbVNMip4AVQmGVF0n7pxtiE1z35wnEzOxuWsKRID0_YqNJxvg&__tn__=-R]
  3. [2]
  4. Portland Phoenix, Portland Phoenix | Democratic Socialism Has Arrived: Seeing surges in attendance and political endorsements, Portland DSA looks midterms and beyondFrancis Flisiuk
  5. [3]
  6. [
  7. [4]
  8. [5]
  9. [6]
  10. [7]