Democratic Gov. Janet Mills dances at her election night party on Nov. 8, 2022, in Portland. Mills defeated Republican Paul LePage and independent Sam Hunkler. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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Bev Uhlenhake is the chair of the Maine Democratic Party.

I’ll never forget where I was on Nov. 8 when I learned that Mainers had not only reelected Gov. Janet Mills and Rep. Chellie Pingree by wide margins, but also returned Democratic majorities to the Maine Senate and House. Rep. Jared Golden’s race hadn’t been called yet, but he was on track to a decisive victory. While many of us gathered in Bangor were astonished that Maine Democrats performed so well in a year expected to favor Republicans, I wasn’t surprised one bit.

Simply put, Democrats put in the work. Our organizers and volunteers talked with Mainers at their doors across all 16 counties. We listened to voters who supported us and others who didn’t. We led with our values and a vision that puts Mainers first — affordable and accessible health care, quality education, good-paying jobs, a livable climate and an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few — and Mainers responded by continuing to put their trust in Democrats to guide our state’s future.

As the chair of the Maine Democratic Party, I vow to continue to earn your support in the months and years ahead.

The reality is this: Every year is an election year. In fact, nearly all Maine cities and towns will hold elections between now and the end of 2023, including some of our most rural communities. As a former city councilor and mayor, I know firsthand that who is elected to sit on your city council, school board or select board can have a tremendous impact on your day-to-day life. And, in my opinion, nothing prepares you better for running for higher office than serving constituents at the local level. It’s no coincidence that some of our strongest candidates started their political careers as municipal officials.

That’s why I’m committed to continuing the work started by my predecessors. To grow our party from the bottom up, not the top down. To support Democratic candidates running up and down the ballot, from select board to president. To organize every season, not just election season. This year, we’ll be knocking doors all across the state, regrowing trust in some of Maine’s most rural communities, electing and reelecting local leaders, and building infrastructure for elections to come.

Legendary poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Angelou’s boundless wisdom is even applicable to politics. When comparing our political parties, you need look no further than the policies proposed by political leaders.

Over the last few years, Democrats have been focused on balancing school budgets, tackling our state’s housing crisis and bringing relief to Mainers struggling with rising costs. By contrast, Republicans have grown more extreme than ever, concerned instead with threatening Americans’ reproductive freedoms, restricting voting access, baselessly targeting the LGBTQ community and banning library books — including Angelou’s writing. The recent election results are further evidence that Republicans have become increasingly out of touch with the beliefs of the vast majority of Mainers, whereas election results show that most Mainers see Democrats as committed to fighting for a future that will benefit Mainers.

I’ve always thought of our Democratic Party as a “big umbrella” party, meaning there’s a place for everyone to be part of our efforts. Whether you’re a lifelong Democrat, recently re-registered, or you’re voting for the first time this year, there’s a place in our party for you. I believe firmly that no one should be left behind, no matter your circumstances or where you live. This belief is core to my identity as a Democrat. So consider this your invitation to join us, to be a part of building a brighter future for our state — a future for all Mainers.