The Maine Socialist Party has launched a drive to register at least 5,000 members by January 2020 in order to meet the threshold to obtain official party status in Maine. In a press release, SP Co-Chair Seth Braun decribed the fledgling party as a “democratic socialist organization.”

“We see socialism as a new social and economic order in which workers and consumers control production and community residents control their neighborhoods, homes and school and the production of society is used for the benefit of all humanity, not the private profit of a few,” said Braun. “We stand for independent political action outside the corporate two-party system and are currently affiliated with Socialist Party USA (SPUSA), a nationally recognized third party. We see the working class in a key and central position to fight back against the ruling class and its power.”

Braun said the party will advocate for a “political revolution that places the government back in the hands of the working class and will seek further electoral reform in Maine, such as ranked-choice voting, to undo the havoc caused by the two-party system in this country and allow for more third-party participation resulting in a government that more fully represents the will of working-class people.”

Socialist Party USA members first established a local branch in southern Maine in 2016, followed by another local in eastern Maine in 2017. In July 2017 the two locals held a convention in Augusta to form the statewide party. During this past election, Braun ran unsuccessfully for Bangor City Council and the party nominated Maia Dendinger of Orono to run as an unenrolled candidate for state Senate in District 5. She received 1,124 votes or 7.5 percent, while incumbent Democrat Jim Dill of Old Town won the race. Socialism has had a resurgence in Maine following the 2011 Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and the presidential run by self-described Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. In the past two years, branches of groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and the International Socialist Organization have formed across the state, including one DSA branch in Rockland recently. However, the aforementioned organizations are not political parties and some of their members are also SP members. 

Maine has not had an active Socialist Party since the 1920s, but socialist ideas flourished in Maine during the Gilded Age. The original Maine Socialist Party was founded in Rockland in 1900 and naturalist Norman Wallace Lermond of Warren was the party’s first candidate for governor that year. While the party had few electoral successes, it was very influential and some of the planks in its 1912 platform adopted at its convention in Belfast ultimately made it into law. The platform called for an old-age pension system, the abolition of child labor under 16 years of age, improved sanitary conditions in shops and factories, universal suffrage, abolition of the poll tax and a graduated income tax.