One of the challenges of that campaign was reaching and moving rural voters. Do you expect this to be an issue for you as a candidate? One of my goals is to get out across the state and talk to as many people as possible in as many cities and towns as possible because I think that it’s important that Washington represent all of us, not just some people and in particular not just special interests, which seem to dominate right now. On issues of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I share a lot in common with conservative Independents and Republicans in rural Maine. Having grown up in Hancock and gone to Ellsworth High School, and worked my way through high school and college, I feel that my background, my community, my roots are in northern Maine.
Another issue you’ve worked on in the past is criminal justice and drug policy. What is your assessment of our country’s drug laws? I think the war on drugs has failed. I support decriminalization or legalization of marijuana. It does not make any sense from an economic perspective or a human-rights perspective to lock up millions of people for drug crimes. The United States currently incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world and that’s a waste of taxpayer funds and has long-term consequences in our communities. If elected, criminal justice would be one of the places where I think we need to see significant federal reform.
You mentioned climate change. How do you balance economic goals with environmental ones? Often environmental change has led to economic progress. To suggest that you have sacrifice jobs for environmental protection is a false choice. You can promote environmental and economic sustainability at the same time. I think it’s really important that as policy decisions have consequences on jobs in certain sectors, or certain geographic areas, that there be follow-up and investment to help people transition into other fields. People are very stuck in the short term; they’re very stuck in protecting what exists now. There seems to be a system, especially in terms of our tax structure, of rewarding those who have the biggest lobbyists and the most sophisticated media operations, instead of thinking not just about what our industry is today, but what is it going to be in 20 years — for our children, our grandchildren.
This summer, Senator Collins defended the National Security Agency’s phone data collection program, saying it “has defeated and thwarted dozens and dozens of terror plots both here and overseas.” What is your take on the controversial surveillance programs we learned about this year? Privacy, under the Constitution, is important in terms of individual liberty, but it’s also critically important to community trust. If we as a society can’t trust that our government isn’t spying on us, that undermines our sense of unity, our sense of shared purpose, and our ability to work together on common problems. Restoring privacy will benefit both our community and individual liberty. If elected, I will work to repeal the PATRIOT Act [and] to repeal the FISA Amendments Act. I will always stand up for privacy.
President Obama said he’d stand up for civil liberties, too. I think that President Obama has been wonderful on LGBT rights and voting rights, and in the area of privacy, he . . . [long pause] . . . he’s failed.