Maia Dendinger held her dream job for a couple of years, as an English instructor at a handful of Maine universities. But with limited benefits and a salary that left her unable to pay bills, she knew she had to trade her passion for something more practical.
As a customer service representative now for Wayfair, she may not be playing out the glossy dream of her youth, but she has health insurance and earns a living wage.
Securing universal healthcare for Maine residents is one of Dendinger’s top priorities as she works toward a seat in the state Senate in November. She’s running as District 5’s Maine Socialist Party candidate – the party’s first and only campaign for the state Legislature.
“We live in the richest country in the history of the world and every other developed nation is able to offer healthcare to its citizens,” Dendinger said, noting the resemblance of her words to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.). “I think if the government has one responsibility, it’s to take care of the populace. We pay taxes here and we funnel money to all sorts of other things, but we don’t invest in healthcare for people.”
Dendinger never imagined that she’d get involved with politics but became inspired by Sanders’ encouragement of young people starting grassroots movements in their communities. Soon after his campaign for U.S. president ended in 2016, she began the early phases of founding the Maine Socialist Party, which was officially recognized by the state in July 2017.
“I don’t see myself as a politician,” Dendinger said. “But I slowly realized that if you leave politics to the kinds of people who want to be politicians, then we’re not going to have the kinds of representatives that we want.”
Running against Democrat incumbent Sen. James Dill, who has held the seat since 2014, and Republican Debbi Perkins, Dendinger said she’s excited by the prospect of offering a fresh perspective in Augusta.
“I think that in the two-party system, options are often quite limited – artificially limited,” she noted. “I think there’s a lack of willingness to approach problems creatively or radically even when those radical solutions are really very necessary. I think there are very few things that are actually impossible, and most things aren’t even as impractical as we think. It’s a question of whether or not there’s the political will to do it.”
Dendinger is committed to working across party lines. She knows that stereotypes about Socialists abound, but hopes that misconceptions will not steer people away from embracing her ideas.
“I believe in direct democracy and community autonomy and the fair and equal distribution of goods and services as well as democracy in the workplace – so, collaborative control of the work that’s done by the people who do the work,” she noted. “In the meantime, nobody’s looking to take away anyone’s second car or instate a whole bunch of tyrannical policies to govern people’s behavior.”
ABOUT THE CANDIDATE
Name: Maia Dendinger
Party: Maine Socialist Party
Occupation: Customer service representative
District includes: Argyle Township, Chester, East Millinocket, Edinburg, Enfield, Greenbush, Howland, Mattawamkeag, Maxfield, Medway, Milford, Millinocket, Old Town, Orono, Passadumkeag, Penobscot Nation Indian Island, Seboeis Plantation, Veazie, Woodville, and part of North Penobscot Unorganized Territory
Campaign website: N/A
Opponents: Incumbent James Dill (D), Debbi Perkins (R).
Dill’s campaign Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2D2ynSV