Bill Slavick is a man without a party. And at this year’s Common Ground Fair – a late-summer hub of leftist politics in Unity – he was also a man without any official place to sit.
It was early afternoon and Slavick, a Portland independent running for U.S. Senate, found himself alone at a folding card table in a hastily erected tent away from the fairground’s major foot traffic. The “candidate’s tent” under which he sat didn’t even appear on the fairgrounds map.
In a general sense, Slavick – a former Democrat – is aware that his shoestring and staff-less campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe has been off the radar screen.
“It’s kind of Quixotic when you can’t put your face in front of a lot of voters, but it has to be done,” Slavick said of his effort to take down arguably one of the most powerful women in Washington. “I knew it was going to be hard, but it’s harder than I thought.”
Slavick, 79, is a retired professor from the University of Southern Maine, where he taught literature for 25 years and became deeply involved in faculty governance and collective bargaining. While education was his trade, political activism has consumed much of his time outside the classroom and has made him well known in anti-war and social justice circles.
“Hi, Bill!” a volunteer at the Friends of Feral Felines booth called out as the bearded Slavick meandered by in his bright red hat and worn tennis shoes.
“Ask me to give you a pamphlet,” he coyly told the woman to avoid the fair’s restrictions on soliciting. The woman happily obliged.
That pamphlet was one of just a few he handed out on the first day of the fair despite several thousand people milling about the grounds. He had hoped to have a more visible spot at the booth of his political ally, state Senate candidate Nancy Oden, a Jonesboro independent and environmental activist.
Oden, who was sick on the first day of the fair, had offered up the booth after meeting Slavick only once at an anti-war rally in southern Maine. It later turned out that fair rules prevented her from transferring her booth to Slavick. Nevertheless, Oden’s ideological support for Slavick remains strong.
“The others say what they think they need to say in order to get elected, and Bill Slavick doesn’t do that,” Oden said of Snowe and the race’s Democratic contender Jean Hay Bright of Dixmont. “He has walked the walk for decades.”
Despite their agreement on almost every issue, there’s no love lost between Slavick and Hay Bright. Early in the campaign, Hay Bright, for fear of splitting the progressive vote, asked him to drop out of race. He ultimately declined.
His decision to enter – and stay in – the race, he said, was borne of his desire to change the course of the war in Iraq and change a government he said has catered to corporate interests and neglected the common good.
“We have a government that sees its role as abetting the powerful and the rich and making them more powerful and richer,” said Slavick, whose writings over the years have appeared in all of the state’s major newspapers.
Those writings of late have most often focused on the war and what he sees as the Bush administration’s unchecked desire to dominate the globe and its wealth. A staunch opponent of the war from its outset, Slavick faults Snowe for her 2002 vote to authorize the invasion and her subsequent votes to fund the war.
“She enables basically everything [Bush] does,” he said.
Slavick’s anti-war credentials are long. He is a member of Veterans for Peace and Peace Action Maine and is the longtime coordinator of Pax Christie Maine, the Catholic and ecumenical peace movement. His wife, Ursula, is a board member at Peace Action Maine.
Another outspoken anti-war candidate has taken notice of Slavick’s candidacy. Dexter Kamilewicz of Orr’s Island – an independent running for the 1st District congressional seat – said he thought Slavick would bring “enormous passion” to the debate over Iraq.
“He’s extremely intelligent and well-informed,” Kamilewicz said of Slavick, whom he will support in November. “But I am so overwhelmingly disappointed in Snowe, I believe both of them [Slavick and Hay Bright] bring more to the table.”
For more information on Slavick’s campaign visit his Web site: www.slavickforussenate.com.