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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Maine considers expanding 'clean elections' law to county candidates

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024   

Maine could become the first state in the nation to provide public funding to candidates seeking the office of district attorney.

Lawmakers are considering the first expansion of the state's Clean Election Act since 1996 to help ensure county-level races are not influenced by wealthy donors.

Anna Kellar, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, said local and state law enforcement positions are increasingly gaining national attention and drawing large amounts of out-of-state spending.

"We see this really as a way of ensuring that this part of our justice system is fully accountable to the voters and able to be independent of their campaign donors," Kellar explained.

Kellar contended providing public funding for district attorney races will increase the pool of candidates with diverse career backgrounds, including public defenders. The legislation has passed a committee with bipartisan support.

Maine voters passed the Maine Clean Elections Act as a citizen initiative in 1996, creating a voluntary program of public financing of political campaigns for governor, state Senator and state Representative.

Candidates who participate can accept limited private contributions to start their campaigns but once they receive money from the state's Clean Elections Fund, they can no longer accept private donations.

Kellar argued the law ensures candidates have enough to run viable, fair campaigns.

"What we often see is if there are races where there are both clean elections candidates, they start out on that equal playing field and that also really helps reduce the need for that outside spending," Kellar observed.

Kellar emphasized the public should trust candidates for county-level law enforcement positions, including sheriff and district attorney, are impartial and will create agendas to benefit the public rather than donor's interests. She added Maine's "clean elections" have provided a great blueprint for other states, and wants the legislature to expand the law to ensure the example continues.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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