Tribal Champions and Adversaries
Tribal Champions are legislators who went above and beyond their duty to support the tribes in Maine, not only voting for beneficial tribal legislation, but also working side-by-side with tribal members to provide the best possible outcomes. They were fully committed during the 130th Legislature, and many even before this session, to do everything in their power to move tribal issues forward. They understand that Maine is better off when the tribes are better off. They understand that there is no fairness in treating the tribes in Maine as less than the 570 other federally recognized tribes in 49 other states.
These are the true legislative champions of the tribes.
Rep. Robert Alley, Beals
Rep. Alley worked closely with the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik during his tenure as a legislator. Rep. Alley would work in tandem with Passamaquoddy Representive to the Maine House of Representatives Rena Newell on tribal legislation beneficial to the tribe and Washington County.
Sen. Rick Bennett, Oxford County
Sen. Bennett unfortunately did not have the opportunity to vote on LD 1626. He was and is a vocal supporter of the legislation. He did not come to his support lightly. He researched the legislation, the history, spoke with tribal citizens and opponents of the legislation. He took the time and provided the respect the legislation deserved.
Sen. Anne Carney, Cape Elizabeth
Sen. Carney, the Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, invested herself fully in supporting tribal initiatives. Whether it was a late night or a meeting on a Sunday, she was there to work with the tribes. She was fully dedicated to the outcome and spent an extraordinary amount of personal time working with the tribes.
Rep. Ben Collings, Portland
Rep. Collins had been a champion of tribal rights before he began serving at the State House. His leadership on tribal legislation in the 130th Legislature was vital to the tribes’ success.
Rep. Jeff Evangelos, Friendship
Rep. Evangelos was a strident and vocal supporter of the tribes as a member of the Judiciary Committee, on the floor of the House and in the press. He eloquently defended the rights of the tribes and articulated the reasons they should be treated fairly on microphone in the Judiciary Committee, House of Representatives and at press conferences. His passion is always coupled with history and policy, using facts to ground his position.
Rep. Thom Harnett, Gardiner
The House Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Harnett went above and beyond his commitment to legislating. He spent hundreds of hours outside of the Committee process meeting with tribal representatives, the Governor’s and Attorney General’s staffs to craft legislation. His grasp of policy and commitment to the results was extraordinary.
Sen. Craig Hickman, Winthrop
Sen. Hickman played a vital role in the success of LD 585. As the Senate Chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, he worked with the tribes to ensure passage of LD 585 and was integral in the fight against out-of-state corporations.
Sen. Troy Jackson, Allagash
Sen. Jackson has been a long-standing champion of the tribes. He has worked in concert with the tribes to ensure they receive a fair process. Sen. Jackson understands that if the tribes have a vibrant economy, health care, infrastructure and educational opportunities, all of rural Maine benefits.
Rep. Tom Martin, Greene
Rep. Martin was a stalwart in providing the space for Passamaquoddy representatives to discuss tribal issues with his Republican colleagues. Rep. Martin was a lynchpin to ensuring Republican support, which secured a veto-proof margin in the House on LD 906, which was passed and allowed the Passamaquoddy Tribe the ability to secure clean drinking water on the reservation.
Rep. Anne Perry, Calais
Rep. Perry’s legislative district encompasses the Passamaquoddy Tribe. As the state representative, she appropriately advocated for her constituents. Ms. Perry has been a true partner with the tribes.
Sen. Heather Sanborn, Portland
Sen. Sanborn was masterful in committee on LD 585. She handled the industry, asked astute questions and did a phenomenal job of shepherding the legislation through the treacherous waters of Judiciary, working alongside Chairwoman Carney.
Rep. Laura Supica, Bangor
Rep. Supica courageously advocated for the tribes’ ability to conduct mobile sports betting. Historically, the Bangor delegation has opposed the tribes being able to conduct gaming, because of the casino located in Bangor. Rep. Supica, who sits on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee which oversees gaming licenses in Maine, advocated for the tribes to game and acknowledged that gaming is not a zero-sum exercise. The Bangor casino and the tribes can both have gaming enterprises and not harm one another financially. She and Rep. Amy Roeder of Bangor constantly supported all tribal initiatives.
Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross, Portland
Leader Talbot Ross was the sponsor of LD 1626 and 585. Without her leadership, commitment and tenacity, LD 1626 would have never received a historic vote in the Maine House of Representatives and LD 585 wouldn’t be law. Her commitment to tribal issues was unwavering.
We do not name adversaries lightly. We would prefer to work with people to create solutions. We do not expect all legislators to understand our issues, but when approached, we would hope they come to the table with an open mind and willingness to learn our side of the issues. Even when legislators do spend the time to learn the issues, we understand they may not vote for tribal issues. Educating legislators is our responsibility.
The Adversary distinction is for legislators who are unwilling to learn about our issues, who vehemently and stridently oppose our legislation and refuse to negotiate in good faith. Thankfully, looking at the legislature in Maine as a whole, whether lawmakers vote with or against tribal issues, they are willing to engage and have respectful conversations. For the 130th Legislature we only encountered two legislators we label adversaries.
Rep. Laurel Libby, Auburn
Rep. Libby was a strident opponent of tribal legislation. As the leading Republican House member on the Judiciary Committee, she constantly tried to delay, sabotage and undermine tribal initiatives that came to the Judiciary Committee. She refused to educate herself on tribal issues. For example, while debating LD 1626 on the floor of the House of Representatives, she tossed out a red herring argument, falsely claiming that the tribal lands in Maine are not contiguous, and that there could be conflicts over environmental rules in towns across the state.
There are three major issues with this line of thinking and lack of knowledge: 1) tribal lands are not contiguous across the country and 2) the current tribal lands in Maine are not contiguous and 3) she essentially wants to quarantine the tribes.
Fortunately, her colleagues in the Republican House caucus were willing to learn about tribal issues and not follow her recommendation to oppose LD 906. Despite Libby’s best efforts, many members of the Republican caucus voted with Democrats to create a veto-proof vote.
Sen. Lisa Keim, Oxford County
Sen. Keim is Rep. Libby’s Senate counterpart on the Judiciary Committee. She received a score of 0% on our scorecard, though the fact that she did not vote for a single tribal initiative was not the reason she is considered an adversary. Her unwillingness to engage and learn from the tribes and constant attempts to derail the Tribes’ efforts is the reason she is an adversary. We understand Sen. Keim opposes tribal efforts, but her unwillingness to engage with the tribes indicates her inability to even consider compromise. She falsely claimed that the tribes did not try to work with the Passamaquoddy Water District to resolve the untenable water issue for Sipayik.
Sen. Keim said the tribes had a backroom deal with the Governor’s office. This is not the case. The tribes engaged in dialogue and negotiations with the Governor’s staff, Attorney General’s office and legislators. The legislation was then brought to the Judiciary Committee and Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee for public hearings. Some 89 people testified over the two days of public hearings, which were followed by three days of public work sessions.
Sen. Keim refuses to engage with the tribes and provides falsehoods. These reasons and more are why we see her as an adversary.