WALDOBORO, Maine — When Chloe Maxmin was running for the Maine House of Representatives in 2018, she would come home after a long day of campaigning (she knocked on the doors of about 7,000 constituents that year) and write, with a pen and paper, thank you notes to the people in her district she’d talked with that day.
She called them “clincher cards,” and by the date of the primary, she’d written so many postcards—fifty or more a day—that her right hand had blisters.
The clincher cards sure didn’t hurt. Maxmin, a Democrat from Nobleboro, won a seat in the Maine House in 2018 and the Maine Senate in 2020, when she upset the top-ranking Republican in that chamber and became the youngest female state senator in Maine history.
She tells the story of her political rise in her new book, “Dirt Road Revival: How to Rebuild Rural Politics and Why Our Future Depends On It,” co-written with Canyon Woodward, her campaign manager.
The book, its authors write, is “a tough-love letter to the Democratic Party,” a work “rooted in our firsthand experiences campaigning in rural red America, the same districts that Democrats have abandoned and that contributed to Donald Trump’s victory.”
Maxmin says one of the keys to her success was to find common ground with people who might not agree with her on issues. Her hope is that Democrats in other rural districts across the country will learn from her experience and connect with voters in a way they’ve failed to do in recent decades.
“To focus on party at this moment in history is to zero in on what divides us,” she and Woodward write. “When we focus on values, we open up space to connect over what we have in common.”
Many people, of course, will disagree with Maxmin on all kinds of issues. But here’s something those same critics might find refreshing: In both of her campaigns, Maxmin refused to engage in negative campaigning.
“[People] associate politics with something that’s negative and divisive, and that turns people away,” she told me. “I don’t want that in my life. I don’t want to have a conversation like that. So why would I inflict that on other people?”