Monday, November 15, 2010

Thank you!!!

Hi Folks!

Thank for giving me your support during this past election and helping me to win another two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. The following is a letter I wrote to the local papers after the election:

Thoughts on This Past Election- can bet we haven’t seen the worst
from the Free Press

After what has been a very long and exhausting campaign season, I would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank all of the voters who gave me their support for another term in the Maine House of Representatives. As your rep, I promise to work even harder and keep the same level of communication as I have in the past. My door is always open, no matter what your political leanings.

I would also like to thank my opponent, Wendy Pelletier, for running a positive campaign based on ideas and not on misleading political attacks. She is a sincere, principled person, and she has my respect. I believe it is important to recognize that most of the mailers that folks received concerning the District 44 race did not come from either of our campaigns. Some came from the two major parties, and some were sent by various political action committees (PACs). Under Clean Elections laws, these groups are prohibited from coordinating their ads with the candidate they are supporting, which can be frustrating when you're trying to control the message of your own campaign.

Putting aside political affiliations, I believe I can speak for most Mainers when I say we are fed up with the negativity and untruths that have become an all too common theme of local elections. I was particularly disgusted with two inflammatory and frankly xenophobic mailers that were sent out from my own party attacking gubernatorial candidate Elliot Cutler, and his business dealings in China. Along with many others, I let the state party officials know my feelings. Hopefully, some serious soul searching is being done.

In my own race, almost $3,000 was spent just on negative mailings targeting me during the mandatory reporting period for third-party expenditures before the general election. However, one group sent out four separate attack mailings against me last fall, while another out-of-state PAC mailed a blast of negative ads the day before the mandatory reporting period to avoid reporting these expenditures to the Maine Ethics Commission. Under current law, these groups can spend as much as they want to tear down an incumbent and never have to disclose any information as long as the action is not done during that 35-day window before an election and they don't "expressly advocate" for or against a candidate. However, from the moment a lawmaker is sworn in, he or she is fair game for any big money group to send pictures of the legislator around the district with inflammatory and deceitful language like "job killer" and "baby taxer." Judging from the costs of the actual reported expenditures, I estimate that around $10,000 was spent on misleading attack ads directed toward me during the past year alone, but there is absolutely no way to get a definite figure or know who is really behind them.

The money spent in my small, rural district on negative ads was a pittance compared to the almost $400,000 spent by the Virginia-based Community Crossroads in five key state senate races in Maine. In this devastating recession when so many are struggling financially, I strongly believe that the sheer amount of money being spent on political advertising that serves no constructive purpose is making working folks question the wisdom behind such a system. The big question remains, where is this money coming from and why are they interfering in Maine elections?

With the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision giving the go-ahead, a record amount of money was spent during this year's election, and we can bet we haven't seen the worst. These groups wouldn't do it if it wasn't effective, but I don't think it's too much to ask for some transparency and accountability.

Rep. Andy O'Brien, Lincolnville

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My radio ad!

Don't forget to vote November 2!

- Andy

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some letters of support!

Fire chief urges support for O'Brien

On Nov. 2, I urge everyone to support Andy O’Brien for re-election as state representative. Andy is a hardworking, genuine person that will fight for our wants and needs in the Maine House. I have known Andy for many years, and never seen him turn his back on his friends, family or community. He is a person that the surrounding communities trust as a proven leader in Augusta.

There is much value in using your local state representative. This was the case when the Lincolnville Fire Department was going through the permitting process for construction of a new fire station. The permit necessary to move forward with the first phase of construction was sitting in Augusta not being dealt with in a timely manner. A phone call was made to Mr. O’Brien, who took it upon himself to resolve the matter expediently. Calls were placed to Congressmen and within 24 hours the permit was granted to the town of Lincolnville. Consider Andy a useful community resource. Thank you!

Go vote for Andy O’Brien on Nov. 2. Your communities are a better place because of knowledgeable people like Andy.

Ben Hazen

Lincolnville Fire Chief

Andy O'Brien working for our communities

I am a 17 year resident of the town of Lincolnville. I have voted in every election, large or small, as I feel it is a privilege and an honor to do so. Two years ago my High School aged son (not yet of voting age) volunteered to work on Andy O'Brien's campaign for State Representative. To see my son involved in the process at such a young age speaks to the character and commitment of Andy O'Brien, to be able to connect with folks where they stand. Andy has lived and worked in Asia for several years and has the experience of both teacher and student in Eastern and Western cultures. As an ESL educator he understands what works, and more importantly, what does not. He will work to make education in Maine more effective and innovative. He has worked hard over the last 2 years making the harmful school consolidation law workable for our communities, while making sure that the voice of rural Maine was heard loud and clear on this contentious issue.

Andy is working to preserve our agricultural infrastructure in Maine by helping to support struggling dairy farms. As someone who grew up in a farming family, he understands the need for growing food locally and creating a local food economy. He continues to be a forward thinker on local agriculture for the state. Andy understands how important quality of place is in attracting businesses and entrepreneurs to the area and will continue to encourage a creative economy and ecotourism. I encourage you to take a look at Andy O”Brien as he runs for State Representative. I believe his ideas are the future of Maine.


Nora E. McGrath

Vote for Andrew O'Brien

Representative Andrew O'Brien has many excellent qualities which he puts to good use helping the people in his district. One of his strongest qualities is his ability to connect with his constituents. Andy takes the time and makes the effort to answer every call, e-mail and letter, even (perhaps especially) to those who disagree with his votes, because he knows it's important to let his constituents know their voice has been heard. Andy is a true representative of the people, which is why he deserves our vote on November 2.

James and Elizabeth O'Haverty, Hope

Vote for Andy O'Brien

I'm writing in response to the mailings my family has been receiving claiming that Andy O'Brien does not represent the communities of District 44.

My own experience has been exactly the opposite. Andy represents us, understands us and works tirelessly for us in Augusta.

As the former chair of the CSD board and a three-year member of the local school reorganization committee, I've had the opportunity to see Andy at work. New educational legislation put our Five Town school district in the peculiar position of possibly losing more in state education subsidies if we reorganize than we would have to pay in penalties if we don't comply. It's a complex issue, with estimates of penalties and subsidies changing every few months, but Andy has worked diligently to make sense of it all. He's worked with us to develop a legislative strategy, drafted and submitted bills, and attended all of the relevant hearings and work sessions.

He's intelligent, he understands the issues, and he is hard-working, positive, and always respectful. We are fortunate to have Mr. O'Brien representing us in Augusta.

I urge everyone to vote for Andy O'Brien as state representative from Lincolnville, Islesboro, Hope, Appleton, Searsmont, Liberty and Morrill.

Michael Kosowsky, Lincolnville

Re-elect Andy O'Brien

Andrew O'Brien has ably served Appleton, Hope, Islesboro, Liberty, Lincolnville, Morrill and Searsmont (District 44) in the Maine House of Representatives for the last two years. I first met him when he was campaigning two years ago, going from house-to-house introducing himself and his ideas for effective government. He caught me working outside and we had a long, pleasant chat. I was impressed with his body of experience, respectable for a person twice his age. I also liked his drive and eagerness to effect positive change. His views on the way we obtain and use energy and how it hinges on other concerns such as economics, environment and security closely matched my own, so I gave him my vote. His performance during the past four years did not disappoint. He kept his constituents aware of what was happening in Augusta and what he did as well as what we could do. He displayed original thought and, always respectful, seemed much less concerned with fixing blame than with fixing problems. He remembered me by name the couple of times I encountered him since our first talk and he always answered my e-mails promptly, addressing my questions well.

Andy O'Brien will once again have my vote this November 2nd. He is what a State Representative should be and he should have the vote of anyone that values energetic and informed representation.

Harold Mosher, Hope

Liberty Voter likes O'Brien

Andrew O’Brien is running for reelection as State Representative for District 44. His hands-on experiences in both education and agriculture have played a crucial role in his understanding of the needs and concerns of our district. As a Liberty resident, I am grateful that this hard-working, accessible young man is willing to serve another term in the legislature if elected. Based on his former record, I know he would be an effective, hard-working legislator in the difficult times ahead.

H L Whitney

Hope You'll Vote for Rep. Andrew O'Brien

In Sarah Reynolds' October 13 interview in the Republican Journal with Republican candidate Wendy Pelletier, Pelletier says that, "Money should never be taken from those who have earned it to give to those who don't have it."

Harsh words from someone who has publicly stated that as a single mother with small children, she accepted government assistance. Why is Wendy Pelletier unwilling to extend a hand to the neediest families now?

On her Twitter feed, Pelletier advocates Bible classes in public schools, but has sent her own children to private Christian schools. So how did she miss this crucial message from the New Testament?

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18

Representative Andrew O'Brien has spent the last two years helping his neighbors in Waldo and Knox counties - working parents, farmers, small business owners, elderly folks on a limited income. On November 2, I hope you'll vote for him.

Elizabeth Hand, Lincolnville

Vote O'Brien!

"In late October of 2008 a mailing from the Maine GOP landed in our mailbox here in Lincolnville. That Halloween mailing said that Andy O'Brien, who was running for House of Representative District 44 , would practice "dirty tricks" and represent "scary values"if he were elected. Andy went on to win that race and to represent this district with fairness and an open door to listen and respond to his constituents . Andy is also working on issues about our economy and food and energy sources.

One of the biggest issues in Maine, and across the nation, is health care costs.
This 2010 election season 'scary political tactics' are being practiced by the Maine GOP in mailings received in many district 44 mailboxes professing that Andy O'Brien voted to 'tax babies'. Andy O'Brien voting record on health care shows that he voted to make insurance more affordable, to continue insurance benefits when sick and to ensure that windfall insurance savings went to continue insurance for families and small businesses.

This Halloween 2010 seems to be the Maine GOP season of 'scary political tactics' as usual. Please support reelection of District 44 House of Representative Andy O'Brien.

Future generations will thank you."

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton

Mailbox Poisoning

Someone is putting poison in my mailbox every day now, and it scares me. I live on the backside of Lincolnville, and I know my neighbors and friends aren't to blame.

The latest deposit comes in the form of a hateful, distorted screed -- quite likely supported by secret out-of-state dollars -- against State Representative Andy O'Brien.

Andy O'Brien? Please. This local young man works harder than most career politicians ever will. He's bright, cares for working people, and believes, as I do, that individuals and entities with lots of power and money shouldn't be pulling the strings. In Lincolnville we all watched Andy grow up; we know his family and his values, and I, for one, resent having him slandered by groups which won't disclose who is writing the checks. Oh, right, they are "non-profit" organizations, with "no political agenda." Gratifying to know that, unlike the rest of us, they won't have to pay federal or Maine taxes of any kind.

Be afraid when secret money and power rain down attacks on a committed young man in rural Maine who is doing his best (which is quite good) to represent us. As for those candidates, of any party or affiliation, who tacitly accept and support these snotty tactics, remember that looking the other way is the first cousin of that other old political temptation:
"Going on the take".

Ric McKittrick

Monday, October 25, 2010

She's adorable...but what is she talking about?

Cute as they are, perhaps babies aren’t the best source of information about complicated legislative policies.

A recent political attack flier featured an adorable baby accusing me, Andy O'Brien, of voting to tax “the delivery of babies!"

My first reaction was to burst out laughing. "Taxing babies? Now that's a new one," I thought.

I have a 100% voting record, and I am serious about reviewing legislation before voting, so I would have remembered this one! Well, as is typical with these kinds of negative mailings, the intent of the message is not to inform or help disseminate information – it is to attack and mislead.

I voted for a law to make health insurance more affordable by making sure more of your premium dollar goes to paying medical bills, not insurance company profits. [*LD 1204]

I voted for a law to prohibit insurance companies from cutting off your insurance after you get sick. I also voted to continue health insurance for small businesses and families by recouping windfall savings from insurers – savings now used to fund discounts on private insurance policies purchased through Dirigo Health. You can be sure these savings, resulting from more people being insured and fewer getting emergency care without insurance, would otherwise simply go to increase insurance company profits. [*LD 1264 Dirigo Health]

This vote will actually HELP many parents pay for the cost of delivering babies.

There are no easy answers to making health care affordable. We need to work together to find the best solutions, not tear each other down with misleading attack ads. That’s why I have stuck to the facts and stayed positive, no matter how many attack ads have been sent out against me.

I urge you to reject the "potty politics" and lend me your support November 2, so I can continue to work for real health care reform.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Responding to the attacks

Over the past several weeks, several negative mailings directed toward my voting record have been sent out to constituents in my district. I have been responding to constituents individually about these votes and if you have received one of these misleading ads, please feel free to call or email me. If I get a free moment I will post my response to each one of these complicated bills in this blog, but for now here is a response I am sending out:

- Andy

Village Soup Profile

Incumbent Andrew O'Brien of Lincolnville says he has found his "sphere of influence" on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

This article originally appeared in Village Soup, written by Sarah Reynolds.

Incumbent Andrew O'Brien is running for a second term as the representative for House District 44 because he feels he has found his "sphere of influence" serving on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and wants to continue the work he has begun toward establishing a local food economy in Maine.

Andrew O'Brien
• Town of residence: Lincolnville
• Party affiliation: Democrat
• Occupation: Teacher, Georges Valley High School; part-time landscaper
• Previous elective or appointive office: One term in Maine House representing District 44; served on the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee
• Clean elections candidate: Yes
House District 44 bridges Waldo and Knox counties, and includes the towns of Appleton, Hope, Islesboro, Liberty, Lincolnville, Morrill and Searsmont.

Concerning his interest in fostering a local food economy in the state, O'Brien said it's a good thing that Maine has many small farms, and not a lot of industrial farming. He wants to keep Maine's agricultural infrastructure intact and help struggling dairy farmers and its growing number of organic farms.

The most important issues facing the Legislature now are the funding gaps in the budget and the state pension system, he said.

Solving those problems is difficult because state revenues, up one month, down the next, are "a moving target." The Legislature must look closely at where it can streamline state government and find efficiencies, but also has to find a way to fund state operations without "dumping costs on the towns," he said.

He said he would be loath to cut further in natural resources areas. While there has been talk of reducing in the Department of Health and Human Services budget, he said he will be listening closely to proposals from his fellow legislators. He thinks the Legislature must "tread lightly" in making cuts and be aware of the effects of those cuts.

Regarding the pension system, O'Brien said, "I'm confident that we'll do something about it, because we have to." He said there is more pressure now to find a solution, because "voters are demanding action," and the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and Joint Standing Committee on Labor will have to respond.

O'Brien sees the promise of new and well-paid jobs in the entrepreneurs he said are flocking to the Midcoast. He is also encouraged by the potential of the creative economy in this region. In addition, he favors expanding the availability of broadband Internet access to facilitate telecommuting.

On alternative energy, he said both solar and wind power have potential — as creators of jobs as well as providers of non-polluting energy — but it's important to think carefully about the effect of those industries on local communities and businesses. He thinks Maine should explore tidal power as well.

With regard to education, he said the property tax is the issue most on people's minds. "There's got to be a smarter way of funding [education]," he said, but he didn't offer any ideas about what that might be.

On the subject of health care, O'Brien said he is "very interested" in making sure everyone in Maine has access to the medical care they need. He does not think buying insurance across state lines would work for Maine. He said the Dirigo Health program "had good intentions, but didn't work out the way it was supposed to," and he expects the program to come up for some attention in the Legislature this session.

O'Brien said the majority of people served by the state's public-assistance programs genuinely need the help, and are self-supporting again within a year and a half, with only a small number needing help for longer. "A lot of people are very much stretched and they're very worried about their future," he said. He told about a 70-something grandmother he knows who is caring for her grandchildren. She is on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and has a small home business, he said. "She's not living high on the hog."

He also said that TANF is a tiny share of the state budget — just 1.3 percent — adding that the state needs more programs to help people get off welfare, but "it's a very tough employment market."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Reality of Bipartisanship

Hi Folks!

I apologize for not being more active on this blog, but it's been pretty hectic with work, school and the campaign. I have been the target of several attack mailings during the past few weeks and I will address them soon. However, for now here is a recent column I wrote for the paper about the reality of what we do in Augusta:

Back in 2008 when I was first running for the legislature, I attended a debate in Belfast that has stuck in my mind during these past two years. Two legislative incumbents, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, finally agreed on one thing: 90% of what is done in Augusta is bipartisan. The rest becomes fodder for attacks during elections. At the time, I couldn’t help but stifle a scoff. I mean, these two guys couldn’t seem to agree on anything! Back then it was about taxes on soda and now it’s about expansions on sales tax to reduce the income tax. As I sit at my desk responding to the eighth attack against me from a special interest group since getting elected, I think back to our work in Augusta during these past two years. Can our work be simply boiled down into a series of four-line attack mailings? Absolutely not.

The truth is that the real policy work happens in committee and when it came to the budget, our committee of Republicans and Democrats was darn near unanimous on every line of the budget. For example, we all agreed that support for dairy farmers needed to be ensured, state parks could not forego spring maintenance, and that, given their workload, we could not afford to cut the number of meetings of the Land Use Regulation Commission. On some issues we had to organize bipartisan working groups to find a solution to unacceptable budget proposals, such as cuts in aircraft support for fighting forest fires. The committee’s unanimous budget recommendations were then sent to the Appropriations Committee, who wove them into a final budget that was unanimously approved by both Democrats and Republicans. That’s not to say we didn’t have our committee spats, particularly over issues such as GMOs, pesticides, and land use in the unorganized territories, though those were only about 10% of the bills we handled. However, even after the most intense committee battles, we were all able to have lunch together afterwards.

A legislator’s job doesn’t end in Augusta though. In late 2008, my wife began letting the answering machine go when I wasn’t around, because there was a 50/50 chance it was a constituent call. Sometimes it’s something simple like pressuring the Bureau of Labor to update me on a constituent’s unemployment application or contacting our US reps to ensure a permit for the building of a fire station. Other times I’ve traveled out to the back of my district to take pictures of crumbling roads for constituents to send to the DOT. I’ve had meetings with our state senator, local selectmen and the DOT commissioner to draw attention to a deteriorating bridge. I’ve met with constituents to intervene on hunter/landowner relations and invited constituents over to my house to talk about their ideas that they felt were being ignored by politicians.

Other times it’s not so simple. The state representative is often the last person to call when other avenues fail. When the phone rings I often say a little prayer that this call isn’t about a child custody case involving the Child Welfare Department, cases that seem to call for a King Solomon kind of judgement. I sometimes feel like the de facto switchboard operator for the Department of Health and Human Services. By far my favorite constituent calls are from inventors. Over the past few years constituents have invited me out to their homes to look at such items as a friction heating device and a super vacuum pump. Although I certainly don’t have the capacity to finance these ideas, I’ve done extensive research to try to connect these folks to the right people.

As the 2010 campaign comes to a head, and the messages from both parties become more strident and negative, it’s important to remember what those two legislative incumbents from 2008, now competing for the Waldo County senate seat, said in a moment of clarity two years ago. The economic nor’easter that crept up from Wall Street a few years back still hasn’t let up, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. This will require lawmakers who are willing to work together, as well as be responsive to their constituents and do everything they can to help them through this turbulent time.

As your state representative, I feel I have gleaned great knowledge and understanding of this complex system during these past two years and feel confident I am up to the task. I respectfully ask for your vote on November 2.