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Dirt Road Revival: A young politician works to rebuild rural politics & tackle polarization

Maine State Senator
Nobleboro, ME

This episode is sponsored by New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, home of the Radically Rural Summit, Keene Pride week, and the Monadnock Arts Open Studio Tour. Located only a two hour drive from Boston, incredible natural beauty and lively downtowns await! Every Urban Exodus begins with an urban escape, and yours is within thriving distance. Visit today for more information.

I’m happy to invite you to my conversation with Chloe Maxmin. At 28, Chloe was the youngest woman ever to be elected to serve in the Maine State Senate. She was elected in 2020, after unseating a two-term Republican incumbent, in her traditionally conservative leaning rural district. Chloe ran on a 100% positive campaign, choosing to reject political partisanship and toxic attacks on her opponent. Her success was the result of an epic door-to-door campaign, knocking on tens of thousands of doors in her district. She met with her voters directly, many of whom had never voted Democrat in their lives, but Chloe convinced to back her campaign.

Chloe is the recipient of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes and the Brower Youth Award. She was also named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone. Her work has been recognized by the Maine Women’s Fund, Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Real Time with Bill Maher, CNN, MPBN and more. This year, Chloe wrote and published Dirt Road Revival, along with her campaign manager, a how-to guide onrebuilding rural politics, and tackling political polarization from the ground up.

Chloe grew up on her family’s farm in Nobleboro, Maine. From a young age, she has been a community organizer and dedicated climate activist. While attending Harvard, Chloe co-founded Divest Harvard, a campaign calling on Harvard University to divest from fossil fuels. The campaign drew hundreds of thousands of supporters and eventually pressured the university to divest the entirety of their multi-billion dollar endowment from fossil fuel stocks.

After graduating college, Chloe moved back home to Nobleboro. She never wanted to stay in the city for longer than she had to be there. She missed the kindness, community, and generous mentality of her small town, that she felt was lacking in her more urban environment.

Through her activism at Harvard, Chloe's interest grew in understanding how communities, even beyond her own, are impacted by public policy. In 2018, she made the decision to run for public office. She used to think she had to wait until she was older, married, perhaps with a law degree – but after a breakthrough driven by passion for her community – she realized all of those were artificial barriers keeping her from pursuing her goals. Chloe felt the need to fight from a place of love she has for her community, and anger at the forces that threaten it.

Chloe's door-to-door campaign in changed who she is as a person. She realized have so much common ground with people who vote differently, despite what the headlines say. She also got a deeper glimpse into how the messaging and strategies of the left have alienated a lot of people. This experience made her much more open-minded, since it showed her how we truly are more alike than we are different.

“We’re used to thinking about politics as something that is super divisive and nasty, and also something that’s pretty far removed from our lives. We mostly talk about who’s running for governor, or president. But there are local races with people who live right down the road from you. These races come down to dozens of votes. Not even hundreds. Just dozens. And that is where your vote matters. And when we talk about how much power local politics has, it really makes every vote so so important.”

According to Chloe, the Democratic party has a lack of investment in rural spaces and infrastructure, and has left huge gaps in their focus on rural races. They tend not to focus on state legislature, and instead put all their eggs in top down races, focusing on turnout in urban areas.

We are often encouraged to judge and place labels on whole swaths of people without knowing anything about them. Chloe’s decision to talk directly to thousands of voters in her district, regardless of their party affiliation, is a testament to the powerful effects of conversation, active listening, respect, and a refusal to define people based on their political party affiliation.

This year Chloe made the difficult decision to not seek re-election. She has shifted her focus instead to “Dirt Road Organizing:” finding rural campaigns and candidates to support. She also now runs a small farm that she works on with her partner. They sell to local co-ops and also grow for the Mainers Feeding Mainers food pantry. Even though it's hard work, physical labor and time among the plants helps Chloe to stay centered, and cope with the emotional toll and stress of political office.

In our conversation we speak about the difficult realities of political office, Chloe's climate activism, the COVID rural influx, and the future of dirt road organizing.

This is a story about radical empathy, tenacity, and the power of humility in connecting with others.



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