Portland rally urges Collins to oppose Supreme Court nominee

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PORTLAND — About 500 people gathered at City Hall Sunday to demand that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins vote against President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was one of several Unite for Justice rallies held across the country Aug. 26.

Maine’s senior senator is seen as a key vote. Since only a simple majority is needed, and after the death of longtime Arizona Sen. John McCain over the weekend, Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both Republicans, have become targets for those hoping to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is retiring.

Speakers at the local rally were women with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

They said they fear Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, would help roll back the right to an abortion, as well as many of the health-care requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

“(We call) on Sen. Collins to hold the welfare of the people and this country above politics,” said Alicia Barnes, a U.S. Navy veteran. “(We can’t) stand by and watch the foundations of our country break. A vote for Kavanaugh would roll back (many) protections.”

Emily Figdor, a local progressive political activist who played a leading role in the campaign for a $64 million school bond passed by Portland voters last fall, said “more could not be on the line for women and girls everywhere. The future of safe, legal abortion is hanging by a thread.”

In a statement released after a private meeting with Kavanaugh last week, Collins said she and the judge “had a productive, informative discussion about a wide range of issues, including his judicial philosophy, his respect for precedent, and the importance of an independent judiciary.”

She said they discussed Roe v. Wade, the role of the special counsel, executive power, gun rights, the Affordable Care Act and protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, as well as the circumstances surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination.”

“I specifically asked Judge Kavanaugh if he had made any commitments or pledges to the Federalist Society, or the White House, about how he would decide any legal issues,” Collins said, and “he unequivocally assured me that he had not made any such commitments.”

The local Unite for Justice rally was organized by the Maine People’s Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Maine. Additional support was also provided by the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Sierra Club.

“We know what’s at stake in this fight, our most precious and fundamental rights” a NARAL Maine press release said. “Brett Kavanaugh will not only work to end Roe (v. Wade) and criminalize abortion, he will rule to gut health care, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental protections, workers rights and immigrant rights.”

If appointed, “Kavanaugh will place decades of legal precedent at risk,” according to a Mainers for Accountable Leadership press release. “His judicial record and politics threaten women’s reproductive rights, environmental protection, civil rights and may end protections for Mainers with pre-existing conditions.”

That’s why Carolyn Silvius, another speaker Sunday, said, “I’ll fight against Kavanaugh with everything I have. We need to keep the pressure on and never stop the fight.” A senior and homeless advocate, Silvius said she relies on access to Mainecare, the state’s Medicaid program.

She said “Trump has made it clear that he wants to reduce or eliminate health care for the poor” and she fears that if the Affordable Care Act is struck down she would no longer be able to qualify for the medical care she needs.

Patty Kidder, of Sanford, an advocate for Medicaid expansion in Maine, added that “health care insecurity is a nightmare. Health care is a human right and we need to make the ACA better, not tear it apart.”

She also reminded those present that Supreme Court justices are appointed for life.

Simarilee Daniels told the crowd that as a woman of color, she is scared by Kavanaugh’s nomination. “I’m taken aback that Sen. Collins could even entertain this nomination,” Daniels said. “A vote for Kavanaugh … would secure the oppression of marginalized people and take away hope, dignity and power from so many.”

Those present at the local rally were asked to send personal, handwritten notes to Collins, urging her to vote against Kavanaugh. Volunteers also circulated through the crowd helping those gathered to place cell phone calls to Collins’ office.

Among the many handmade signs, were ones that read “Senator Collins put country before party” and “Sen. Collins you hold the Trump card. Vote no.”

Kavanaugh does have the support of conservatives and others who hope he’ll reign in what they perceive to be unwarranted judicial activism.

He was appointed to the circuit court in 2006, after being nominated by President George W. Bush.

He previously served in the Bush White House and worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who conducted the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

After her meeting with Kavanaugh on Aug. 21, Collins said she would “continue to review (his) record and will closely follow the (confirmation) hearings before reaching a decision on whether to support the nomination.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Organizers say about 500 people rallied Sunday, Aug. 26, at Portland City Hall to oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alicia Barnes, a U.S. Navy veteran, called on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court during a Unite for Justice rally held in front of Portland City Hall on Sunday, Aug. 26.

Those attending a Unite for Justice rally in Portland Aug. 26 had many personal reasons for opposing the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.