Maine Legislative Watch Dogs | by Gina LeDuc-Kuntz | January 1, 2021
After a brief hiatus while the Maine State Legislature has been out of session, Maine Legislative Watch Dogs is readying for its next round of bill watching and fierce activism.
Since Maine Legislative Watch Dogs began organizing in February 2021, the group has served as a much-needed example of how true grassroots networking among constitutionally-minded Mainers can bring about important change in Maine’s political landscape.
Growth came quickly to Maine Legislative Watch Dogs as people responded to the home-grown honesty, dedication and, most of all, the hard work of its founder, Gina LeDuc-Kuntz. Gina immediately turned to researching upcoming Maine State legislation to identify important bills to watch, provide members with insights surrounding key testimonial points and guidance on the testimony process all without being paid.
Hard work pays off; this always holds true and it held true for Maine Legislative Watch Dogs. Early on, several critical bills were ultimately defeated, pointing to Watch Dogs’ budding success.
One early Watch Dog win is seen in LD 580: RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine Regarding Early Voting.
- 60% of testimony received opposed passing this bill. Of that 60%, 75% of testimony in opposition came from Maine Legislative Watch Dogs. LD 580 was defeated on July 19th, 2021 and placed in the Legislative file.
Gina remained tireless; posting updates and encouragement, holding webinars, organizing and speaking at rallies, going on radio interviews, writing for publications like Dave’s Paper and spending countless hours talking with people from all backgrounds.
She networked extensively with constitutionally-minded organizations, both on the State and National levels, providing information and video instruction to ordinary Mainers showing how they can impact Maine policy by raising their voices to be heard by our elected officials through the legislative process.
Members responded by signing petitions, calling their legislators, sending written testimony and presenting live testimony on specific bills and, in turn, encouraging each other.
Election integrity issues proved to be Maine Legislative Watch Dogs’ strong suit as Watch Dogs played a major role in killing two bills designed to lower Maine’s voting from age from 18 to 16: LD 706: “RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Lower the Voting Age to16Years of Age” and LD 1051: “An Act To Promote Civic Engagement and Voter Participation for Young People by Lowering the Voting Age for Municipal Elections to 16 Years of Age.”
- LD 1051 received 85% testimony in opposition. Watch Dogs represent 59% of that 85%. Overall, Watch Dog testimony represented 50% of all testimony received on LD1051
- LD 706 received 55% testimony in opposition, with Watch Dogs representing 74% of that 55%.
Both bills were killed on June 3rd, 2021
Watch Dogs also chimed in on LD 1375: “An Act To Permit Online Absentee Voting.” 83.33% of total testimony received opposed passing this bill with 70% of oppositional testimony coming from Maine Legislative Watch Dogs.
The bill died on May 19th, 2021
Overall, hundreds of Watch Dogs contributed an estimated 560 testimonial preparation and testimonial hours, not including the outreach time contributed to the group by its founder, Gina.
Additionally, 67% of those testifying from Maine Legislative Watch Dogs had never testified before. These were ordinary Mainers who were new to the legislative process but became fully engaged after being trained and shown the steps to effective activism.
Impressively, 75% of those Watch Dogs testifying stayed involved through the entire 130th Legislative session, many of whom showed their commitment by testifying more than once.
Local news outlets took notice. One of our very active members, Mark Chasse, who attended all Maine Legislative Watch Dogs’ Zoom trainings, was featured in the Sun Journal for his commitment level: thirty-three testimonies in one month.
Maine Legislative Watch Dogs caught the attention of FreedomWorks, a 6-million member national organization “existing to build, educate, and mobilize the largest network of activists advocating the principles of smaller government, lower taxes, free markets, personal liberty and the rule of law.”
Gina is the first Maine activist, and remains the only activist, to bring FreedomWorks here to Maine. The two groups first brought their focus together in an online activist training forum to oppose HR 1, better known as “For The People Act,” an odious bill that would basically federalize elections. Later, together with Maine’s newly formed “Swinging Gate,” the organizations jointly conducted in-person activist trainings in Lewiston and Brewer, Maine.
During this FreedomWorks visit, Maine had the pleasure of being introduced to Rev. CL Bryant, FreedomWorks Senior Fellow and Co-host to Newsmax’s “Save the Nation.” Rev. Bryant remains a friend to Maine Legislative Watch Dogs.
Later in the legislative session, Maine Legislative Watch Dogs hosted a live webinar with John Tamny, FreedomWorks Director of the Center for Economic Freedom and author of “When Politicians Panicked,” to discuss the economic and business impacts caused by poorly planned Covid 19 policy responses.
After working to successfully engage activists for and against important bills, Maine Legislative Watch Dogs again partnered with FreedomWorks to rally activists to defeat two Maine bills aimed at bringing Maine into the National Popular Vote Compact and National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. If left undefeated, these bills would have erased our electoral college and Maine’s voice in the Presidential elections.
By throwing their weight against these two bills, Watch Dogs saw both LD 1330: An Act To Join the National Popular Vote Compact and LD 1384: An Act To Adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact defeated:
- 62% of testimony received opposed adopting LD 1384. Out of this 62%, 74%, or nearly three quarters of testimony in opposition, came from Maine Legislative Watch Dogs.
- Watch Dogs had a strong presence on LD1330 with 47% of testimony in opposition to the bill coming from Watch Dogs. Total opposition to this bill ran at a narrow 55% lead meaning, without Maine Legislative Watch Dogs’ input, the conservative voice would have been out paced by an estimated 63%.
Given the political domination by Democrats, not all efforts were successful, but that didn’t stop Watch Dogs from challenging the status quo, asking questions, and working to move the needle in conservatives’ favor wherever we could. When Maine State Senator, Peter Lyford came forward with Joint Resolution HP596 to end Mills’ emergency powers, Gina raised awareness around this and the 13 other bills seeking an end to, or modification of, Mills’ emergency powers by inviting Sen. Lyford to speak with Maine Legislative Watch Dogs. Energized Watch Dogs then shared Gina’s call to action on HP596 a phenomenal 265 times.
Efforts did not end online but continued onwards and offline with rallies at the Augusta Civic Center demanding an end to Governor Mills’ abuse of Maine’s State emergency powers.
Some issues within Maine Legislative Watch Dogs generated huge responses and lively debates, like the Nao Santa Maria’s visit up the Penobscot River especially the canceling of the Nao Santa Maria’s scheduled Maine tour.
Despite some contentious push back over the Santa Maria, Gina soldiered on and ran a tight ship, keeping the focus on legislation and the actions ordinary citizens can take to effect change. Her educational efforts got several bills voted down in work session, such as one that would limit use of airboats by clammers. She tackled tough issues like the teaching of critical race theory in the schools and a citizen’s right to petition their government without fear of reprisal, regardless of race, status or heritage.
When Maine House Representative Charlotte Warren made an objectionable post on Maine’s State Senate public facebook page asserting White, straight men are unfit for public service in politics, Gina persuaded House Assistant Minority Leader, Representative Joel Stetkis, to bring forward a resolution seeking Warren’s censure. On July 19th, Gina posted:
“UPDATE: The good news is we got a floor debate and Roll Call vote on H.O.11: “House Order to Require Disciplinary Action Against Representative Charlotte Warren.” Other great news is Joel Stetkis did a stellar job in his reasoning and delivery in that debate on the House Floor. Very impressive.
NOT SO GREAT NEWS: Rep. Dillingham, House Minority Leader, stood up against the House Order, encouraging House Republicans to also not support the order.
OUTCOME: The House voted 105 to 21 to “Indefinitely Postpone” a decision on this Order.
OUR WINS: You guys are amazing! The fact we got this pushed forward in an Order and saw a House Floor debate with a Roll Call vote is amazing work. THANK YOU WATCH DOGS for hanging in there; signing petitions, calling, emailing and letting your representatives know your opinions.”
When the Maine CDC proposed technical rule changes amending 10-144 CMR chapter 264, Immunization Requirements for Healthcare Workers seeking to mandate Covid vaccines for all Maine health care workers, Maine Legislative Watch Dogs once again jumped into the fight teaming up with other grassroots organizations to get behind a lawsuit brought by the Alliance Against Healthcare Mandates.
Independent of the Alliance, Gina organized an email campaign asking Mainers to urge Senate President Troy Jackson and House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau to call the Legislature back to make reasonable modifications to Governor Mills’ Covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in an effort to head off Maine’s looming health care crisis.
In her email, Gina advised:
“Mainers! Tell your Maine State Legislator, Governor Mills’ Covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is bad public policy and will cause more deaths than lives saved!
Governor Mills’ Covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is creating a crisis in Maine’s healthcare system by creating a healthcare worker shortage.”
Mainers responded, sending the House and Senate members their stories and opinions from every corner of the State yet Democrat leadership failed to take action. This failure has directly led Maine into its current healthcare crisis.
Maine Legislative Watch Dogs has made impacts never imagined at its start just a few short ten months ago. Now, with its new streamlined systems and Gina’s leadership, our ability to reach more Mainers ready to fight for our rights is greatly expanded.
Watch Dogs will carry on this important work watching bills in this upcoming legislative session as well as expand our reach on election integrity all while standing guard against government overreach of every kind.
Come on everyone, invite your friends. Let’s fight like dogs!
Website: Maine Legislative Watch Dogs
FaceBook: Maine Legislative Watch Dogs