Credit: George Danby / BDN

This weekend, Mainers can look beyond the challenges of our hard spring to celebrate America’s Independence Day and Maine’s bicentennial. Over the past 200 years of statehood, we have cherished our independence, our outdoor traditions and our determination to offer economic opportunity for all Mainers. We do have much to celebrate, but as we take stock, we must acknowledge a dangerous future ahead if left unchecked.

One of the biggest threats to Maine is the growing control over our politics by massive amounts of outside money. That’s why I have joined Mainers across the political spectrum in support of Stand with Maine to secure our rights and to keep Mainers in charge of Maine’s future.

In 2020, we face an election where a few billionaires and a minority of powerful activists, buoyed by an endless supply of money, threaten to overwhelm the voices of all of us, and our Republic.

With a high-profile U.S. Senate race here in Maine, we know what’s coming at us. Already, candidates have raised over $29 million combined. Upwards of $55 million is expected to be spent on advertising by November — more than double the money spent on any Maine race in history.

Four years ago in New Hampshire, a single U.S. Senate race had spending of more than $130 million! Most of the spending came from murky outside sources, such as “Granite State Solutions” (based in Atlanta, Georgia) and “Senate Majority PAC” (based in Washington, D.C.). Donors to these groups included billionaires and corporations; not many were from New Hampshire.

Now in Maine, we are seeing the same trend: Massive money from away overwhelming an election that should be for Mainers to debate, be heard and decide. This is happening nationwide.

While former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may be out of the race for president, he has promised to continue spending whatever it takes from his $64 billion fortune to support candidates for office who will vote to take our firearm rights. Money from billionaires like Bloomberg, as well as groups funded by millionaires and corporations, buy up advertising well before the election. To maximize profits, media outlets raise ad rates to levels that most people and campaigns cannot afford, squeezing local concerns, ideas and voices out of the market.

If we have learned one thing from the most recent national and state elections, it is that the political divide between rural and urban areas is growing. Vote totals in the Maine bear hunting initiative and Maine background checks for gun sales referendums showed urban voters strongly supporting both initiatives and rural voters opposing in droves.

Urban centers are becoming more progressive and rural areas more conservative; this dynamic begins to go off the rails because urban areas are where wealth is concentrated. This disturbing trend means rural residents in lightly populated areas have a diminishing ability to raise money and defend their communities from those that impose their political will from another region of the state or nation.

If we love our way of life, we must fight for it! As an average Mainer, it is nearly impossible to compete with billionaires, but what they can’t buy with money is the deep love and passion we feel for the outdoors and the freedom our Constitution guarantees.

We Mainers can disagree about a lot of things, but we are here as a state after 200 years because we know that in standing together, we can work our problems out and move ahead to better days.

A few years ago, I supported lawmakers who came together across party lines to vote for the Maine Resolution that called for a Constitutional amendment to limit the undue power of money in elections and protect the voice of every American. Today, I am marking our Independence Day and Maine bicentennial by joining the many Mainers who are standing together to call for this Constitutional amendment. We urge all candidates and elected officials to join us: Stand with Maine, not big money.

David Trahan of Waldoboro is the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and a former state legislator.