61%ers Say LePage Doesn't Represent Them
In the past twenty-four hours, more than 600 stickers have been purchased featuring a blue outline of the state of Maine and "61%" in bold, black type. It's the first physical display of the power of a new political proto-movement in Maine that so far exists almost entirely online.
61% refers to the percentage of voters who voted for a candidate other than Governor Paul LePage in the last election. (The Secretary of State actually pegs that number at 62.4% but this campaign started before those numbers were final.)
With more than 4,000 Mainers declaring themselves fans of the "We are the 61% of Maine that did not vote for Paul LePage" page on Facebook in the last few weeks, and most of those having joined in the last few days, the idea seems to be gaining steam. The page's creators also just launched a website at MainesMajority.org. The site is currently just a way for people to buy stickers but the Facebook page serves up a steady stream of links to news stories and opinion pieces attacking the LePage administration.
Measured against other online political movements, the 61% campaign seems to be doing well attracting followers. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who lost to LePage by less than 2% of the vote, only has 2,103 Facebook fans and the 61% group now has almost half the fans of LePage's own campaign page, without the benefit of an actual election to get people interested. The website of the Maine Refounders, the state's most prominent Tea Party group, for another example, lists 930 members.
The people behind the campaign, which they describe as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit, volunteer effort” are Chris Korzen and Jack Woods.
Korzen is executive director of Catholics United, a group “dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition.” Woods describes himself as a "freelance organizer and activist."
"This effort emerged from some conversations Jack Woods and I started having back in November," explained Korzen by email. "We were concerned that the fact that most of Maine didn't vote for the new governor was getting lost in the shuffle, and we wanted to find a way to help make sure Maine's majority had a voice."
"We decided to launch this effort on Facebook as a way of testing the 61% message. We picked up a couple hundred members right away, but things were pretty quiet for a few weeks. Then LePage told the NAACP to kiss his butt and we basically went viral," said Korzen, who theorizes that it's not simply LePage's election, but his abrasive style now that he has taken office that is driving his group's popularity.
It remains to be seen if the 61% group can keep up the pace in terms of growth and if its members can accomplish something more in the political sphere than just clicking "like" or buying stickers. If they can, LePage might need to start worrying. As the group's name suggests, the political middle and left in Maine still make up a solid majority of voters.