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Q&A with Newell Augur (10/21/09), Question 3

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October 21, 2009

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I sat down with Newell Augur today, leader of the “No on 3” campaign and Maine People for Improved School Education. The interview took place at a coffee shop, where the coffee manager was curious about our interview. The manager asked, “So a “no” vote would repeal the law?” Mr. Augur replied, “No, a “no” vote would defeat the measure and keep the law in place.” That’s why we’re here for our readers: to keep them informed.

1. What is your campaign doing to get the word out to voter’s? How much money are you spending on TV, radio and newspaper ads, etc?

Well, I don’t want to give too much of what we’re doing. I could give you more information come November 4, but I just don’t want to give away our playbook. I could give you a recitation of what we’re doing, how we’re reaching out to voters. We’re trying to reach them in as an effective, efficient way as possible. We have reached out to various voter lists of both Democratic and Republican parties. Let’s see, we have our website and that’s been giving out information in terms of what we’re doing. You can receive updates on our campaign on our site, you know, and we’re using that to respond to the misinformation that the other side may be giving to voters.

2. Who are your major donors? Can you cite any specific organizations?

If you go to the ethics commission’s website, there is a list of political action committees that are donors to our campaign. Our political action committee, Maine People for Improved School Education, are the main donors for “No on 3”. You know, it’s right there in for Maine public to see. There’s a lot of information on that.

3. Governor Baldacci has stated his opposition to Question 3. How much of a help has that been to your campaign? Has he donated money towards the campaign?

Well you know, he’s the main guy. He’s the head of the state of Maine, it’s been a tremendous help. He knows more than anyone what a step back this would be if we erased all the hard work that went into this law. He was the first one who proposed this in his inaugural address a few years back. He took on entrenched special interests who didn’t want this law. He had the wisdom back in 2007 to know the importance of saving our money. We didn’t have a meltdown of the banking industry back then. So even before that, he knew the importance of how this law would save us money. The fiscal problems we face today make Question 3 even more central to what he wanted to do; this measure wouldn’t be nearly as significant if it was present 2 years back. The governor sees the what this law would do for education and savings. We are fortunate enough right now with the economy to realize the importance of saving money.

4. Other than the debates that you are participating in, do you have any specific rallies or other such events planned in the coming weeks?

No, not really. We haven’t been doing that. But we’ve been doing some grassroots events around local areas, such as football games, speaking at county fairs. That’s essentially been our grassroots work.

5. Has there been polling done for this measure to get a grasp of where voters are leaning?

Yes, there is the Pan Atlantic Survey that took place last month. It showed that the “Yes” [campaign] were ahead by 7 points. But, notably, it showed that 30% of the voters were undecided. I can’t really list the figures off the top of my head, but I do know the other side was up roughly five or six points. But the funny thing about referendums are that they can turn on a dime. Historically, candidate campaigns are different than these issues. “No” votes are usually typical in these measures, I believe it’s like 2 out of every 3 times that the “Vote No” succeeds.

6. I asked you this at the debate, but again, since voters should be clear on this: will jobs be cut if the law stands and Question 3 is defeated?

There already have been jobs cut. In a school district, you have a superintendent, an assistant superintendent, a transportation director, a food service director and a curriculum director. You know of course some of those are going to be cut in a new [consolidated] district. But we have 290 districts, which is far too many. People can’t afford those positions in their new districts. In this type of economic atmosphere, job creation and job preserving is important. But not when the position is money that is being taken out of the classroom. Wouldn’t you want a Gifted and Talented program rather than a transportation director? I don’t think I know a person in this country that would answer this question the wrong way; by not improving education.

7. What is your next step if question 3 passes? Will we see a persistence in your campaign?

No I don’t think so. If Maine people reject this, if Maine people want to invest money into administration and not schools, then I don’t foresee a renewed effort, certainly not on a future ballot. Legislature will have to take steps around the edges if the question is passed. It’s funny though, you’re right, Question 1 does overshadow this, even TABOR overshadows this. But I think this issue is what is going to impact us the most 20 years down the line. The effort to consolidate is not just about school districts, it’s about re-evaluating our government, it’s about providing better services in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Latest Question 3 poll

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided
Sept. 30 - Oct. 7 Pan Atlantic SMS Services 46.1% 41.1% 12.7%
Oct. 20 - 22 Pan Atlantic SMS Services 39% 45% 16%

See also

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