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Bellows Takes Senate Campaign on Trek Across Maine
06/06/2014   Reported By: Jay Field

The woman aiming to replace Susan Collins in the U.S. Senate is taking her campaign on the road, literally. Shenna Bellows says she'll set out next month on foot on a 350-mile trek from Aroostook County to southernmost Maine. As Jay Field reports, this particular brand of retail politicking has a rich history in Maine.

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Shenna Bellows

"I think any hiker will tell you that a good walk starts in a shoe store," says Shenna Bellows.

It's a little after 10 a.m. and Bellows has come here, to Lemay-Wellehan Shoes in Augusta, to talk about a trip she says will soon take her to 60 Maine communities. Bellows is wearing the running sneakers she'll need to make it through those 19-mile days on her upcoming "Walk With Maine for Jobs and the Economy."

"I will be walking from Houlton to Kittery," she told reporters at a news conference. "We're walking to lift up the voices of Mainers who've been left out and left behind by politics in Washington that benefit the largest coporations and wealthiest individuals at the expense of our local communities."

Along the way, Bellows says she'll spend her days meeting with voters and visiting entrepreneurs and small businesses in towns along the route. She faces a formidable task in trying to unseat a popular incumbent U.S. senator. As she heads off on her walk, Bellows will be embracing a tactic made famous by a Maine politician who served in both the U.S. House and Senate.

"Last night, I was in Falmouth at a house party, and a friend of mine - a lawyer named Jack - said, 'I remember in 1972 I told Billy Cohen he could never win. And I was wrong,'" Bellows said.

Republican William Cohen was elected to Congress in 1972, after walking 600 miles across the 2nd District during the campaign.

"It was done in the general election campaign. And he started in the Gilead-Fryeburg area, near the New Hampshire border, walked across Route 2 to Bangor, and eventually, up to Aroostook County," recalls Paul Mills.

Mills, a Farmington lawyer and the brother of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, writes commentary about Maine's political scene.

"That focused a great deal of celebrated attention on Cohen's candidacy, when he was considered an underdog, running against State Sen. Elmer Violette of Van Buren, who had previously run for the United States Senate himself," Mills says.

While Cohen may be the most famous Maine candidate to use "The Walk" in a political race, others have tried variations of this tactic. Republican David Emery walked 500 miles, two years after Cohen, and won election to Congress in Maine's 1st District.

In the Farmington area, Mills remembers a candidate for local office named Luther Whittier, who didn't own a car and did all his politicking by bike. And then there's this article from the Lewiston Daily Sun from 1974.

Jay Field: "The headline? 'Sheriff Campaigning on Horse.' 'Riding a quarter horse named Justice, a Republican candidate for Penobscot County Sheriff is traveling acorss the sprawling county in an effort to evoke memories of lawmen of the past. Aubrey Morgan, what do we know about him?'"

"I don't think he was successful," Mills says.

Indeed, Aubrey Morgan lost that race to Democrat Otis Larabee by a little over 2,000 votes.

Photo: File, Caroline Losneck

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