I recently sat down with Senate candidate Eric Brakey to talk about his campaign, and the work that he has done in his role as State Senator here in Maine. Over the years Eric has garnered a solid reputation in Maine as a smart, principled legislator who is not afraid to speak out in defense of Maine people and our liberties, and to take a stand for the Constitution. Several years ago he won the respect and gratitude of Mainers by drafting and introducing what would become Maine’s Constitutional Carry legislation, making Maine the 6th state in the nation to effectively reaffirm that the Second Amendment is the only permit needed to carry a concealed firearm. Now he is seeking election to the Senate to replace progressive incumbent Angus King.
I met with Brakey at his campaign office in Auburn, where he was gracious enough to sit down and share his thoughts, not only on Second Amendment issues, but on other important concerns that Mainers face today.
So why are you the best choice for Maine on November 6th?
Well, there are three candidates in the race, myself, Angus King and Zak Ringelstein, who is really a Democratic Socialist. I like to say that the big difference between the three of us is that the two other candidates in this race want to go to Washington DC in order to exercise more control and more power over our lives and to tell people how to live. I’m the only candidate in the race who wants Washington DC to leave us alone and follow the Constitution.
As you know, Liberty First Foundation works to protect our fundamental Constitutional rights, including the right to bear arms. Can you tell me a little bit about your history working to protect the Second Amendment, and what that’s been like in this current political climate?
I got involved originally around 2010 or 2011 during the Tea Party wave. I was a young person, just graduated from college, and realized at that time that we were in a lot of trouble as a nation. Not only were we trillions and trillions of dollars in debt – back then it was 13 trillion dollars in debt, which we thought was a lot – of course now we are up to 21 trillion, it just keeps adding up. So I knew we were in trouble, but it wasn’t just Washington DC stealing our money, it was more than that. The more I got involved the more I learned that our real inheritance as the American people are the liberties that our founding generation fought for and many of them laid down their lives for, and those were in danger.
And as I have seen over the years since then, our liberties are continually being eroded by Washington DC. A big part of that has been a concerted attack on our Second Amendment. We see this attack going on a day to day, week to week, and month to month basis. We see this going on as the Michael Bloomberg’s of the world pump millions and millions into “astroturf” groups and efforts to undermine our rights both on the federal level and on the state by state level. We’ve seen it in Maine in our referendum process with Question 3 two years ago which thankfully we defeated. We’ve definitely seen our Second Amendment under assault.
I’m glad for the fact that here in Maine we’ve had some real success pushing back against those forces and not just standing our ground and holding the line on our Second Amendment but actually working to restore our Second Amendment in certain ways like we did with the passage of Constitutional Carry, the bill that I sponsored my first year in the State Senate in 2015. I think that was a big accomplishment for our state. It happened not just because I wrote the bill and offered it, but because we had so many grassroots people across the state of Maine who were not afraid to stand up, to call and email their legislators, to show up in Augusta and testify in public hearings and let all the legislators in Augusta know that they were being watched and their votes were being very carefully considered. It got to a point with so many people being involved that there were legislators who voted for it because they were worried about their reelection, and that’s where people have a lot of power.
With Constitutional Carry, Maine was I believe the 6th state in the nation to pass such legislation. There were others, Vermont was the first, for many years, but it had been slowly gaining steam. Vermont, then Alaska, Arizona and a few other states. It was very slow, every few years a new state would kind of pick it up. And then I think in the same year we had Kansas and Maine, and with Maine we became the 6th and in just the few years since then it has more than doubled. I really think Maine was one of the tipping points that really kind of got us to a critical threshold. What we did here demonstrated to other states that with this policy in place we are the safest state in America. Despite all the predictions that there was going to be blood running through the streets and all the bad things that anti gun groups were telling us were going to happen, it just never happened, so that has been huge.
We faced some big obstacles in that fight. I will say that Constitutional Carry had come forward as a piece of legislation pretty much every two years in the Maine Legislature for about 20 years prior to us passing it. It had never really gotten much traction until in the 126th legislature, which was right before I came in . The person who had sponsored that was State Representative Aaron Libby who was in many ways a big role model of mine. He introduced it, and we worked with him, I was running an organization at the time called Defense of Liberty PAC and we worked with him along with groups like Campaign for Liberty and Gun Owners of Maine, which is now a very prominent group in the state. Back then they were just starting out at that time too and they were vital in that fight.
We did a big push at the time in the 126th legislature and we came within one vote, we came in one vote short of passing it in the House of Representatives. Democrats were in control of the House and the Senate then, and when I saw that we were just one vote short of passage in the House I thought, there’s just no reason why we can’t accomplish this. We came so close to passing it because of all the grassroots effort . Now, when I won election to the Senate and Republicans took control of the Senate in the next election and picked up seats in the House I just thought that we can really get this done this time, So, as State Senator I introduced it. I put all my energy into it. I went and I talked to individual legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, I got close to one hundred cosponsors from both chambers. Over half of all legislators in Augusta.
That was when really, the Michael Bloomberg funded groups kind of realized there was something going on up here in Maine and they needed to get involved, and they started dumping money in, doing robo calls, putting up commercials trying to scare people. We lost a few Democrats who originally signed on as cosponsors, for example Jared Golden, you know Jared Golden was a state representative from Lewiston who signed on as a cosponsor originally but then flipped and voted against it at the end of the day. But we also picked some people up. Marty Grohman who is running for Congress as an Independent now, he was not a co sponsor at the beginning but he came on board and voted for it ,which for him, you know he’s from a city, Biddeford, was probably a difficult vote for him . So we got every Republican on board. In the end, though, we wouldn’t have got this done if we hadn’t gotten some of those Democrats on board, in the House of Representatives in particular. It never would have happened. I’m really appreciative of some of the Democrats who were willing to work with me on getting that passed.
How are you approaching your current election campaign?
This is certainly a grassroots campaign that will be won on the ground. You know I don’t have the millions of dollars that Angus King has from Washington special interests. We’re doing alright on fundraising but we don’t have the kind of money that he has. What we do have is Maine people who are passionate about our liberties and our freedoms and who are willing to get involved and make a difference. That means they are out there knocking on doors and making phone calls and I’m out there in the field with them. It’s great to be out meeting people and getting the message out. I think the message of liberty is a popular one and I think that fundamentally as Maine people we don’t like the idea of this city 500 miles away, Washington, telling us how to live and stealing so much of our money. I think that Maine people, we recognize when we can make our own decisions in our own lives.
I do think that people are getting energized and focused on the right issues. In the past I think Washington DC did a very good job for a long time of getting us into these squabbles and making it all about Republican vs. Democrat and making it about one group vs. the other. But the choices that people were being given were between establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans and both of those want to grow power in Washington DC and both want to erode our Constitution and take away our rights and our money. There might have been differences in degree in some things but at the end of the day you were forced to vote for the lesser of two evils and both were going in the wrong direction. I think now the Conservative movement, the Liberty movement has really come a long way since 2010 in recognizing that it’s not enough just to elect Republicans, we have to elect people who actually will defend our liberties.
What would you say the most important issues are in this election cycle?
As I go out and talk to people some of the issues that I hear most about are Donald Trump, the economy, and healthcare. As far as Donald Trump, people have strong opinions about him one way or another. The other side is openly talking about impeachment. Both of my opponents in this race and talked about supporting impeachment. Angus King said on CNN last year that he thought it was approaching time to consider impeachment and I am solidly against that. People may or may not like Donald Trump personally, but .frankly he’s grown on me a lot. I was a little skeptical of him early on but I’ve seen what he’s done as president from cutting taxes to his appointment to the courts and even some good America first changes in our foreign policy. I think that right now, Donald Trump is the only thing that is standing between us and handing the keys back to the deep state bureaucracy. And if Donald Trump is fighting these very entrenched special interests that have run our government for a very long time to the point that no matter who was in power, whether Democrats or Republicans it seemed like nothing ever really changed, then I’m happy to be fighting alongside him.
Another issue that I’m hearing about on the ground is our economy. You know people like that we seem to be at least for the moment in a growing economy. And as the economy is growing, that means there is more wealth in society, and then the question is, who’s going to get a raise? Are the people of Maine going to get a raise, are we going to get a raise and get bigger paychecks, or is Washington DC , are the folks in Washington DC going to get a raise, a bigger paycheck, with more taxes and more debt? You know Washington DC is the richest region in America . The average income in the suburbs around Washington is twice that of what people earn on average here in Maine yet we are the one’s paying for them. That’s pretty disgusting, especially since Washington DC – what do they really do for us? Not much. They don’t produce anything there. They just spend our money. 21 trillion dollars in debt and 113 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That’s 1.1 million dollars for every taxpayer in America because of their wastefulness.
The other big issue that I keep hearing about is healthcare. Our healthcare system is very screwed up. It’s been very screwed up for a long time. Obamacare helped screw it up but it was screwed up before then . You have this health care system right now that is dominated by third party payers whether that’s big government or big insurance companies. We the patients have lost our one to one relationships with our doctors. Instead we have these middle men standing between us and our doctors denying us coverage. And people are understandably frustrated when we pay such high premiums and we pay so many taxes that we are not getting the healthcare that we deserve. That’s a problem. I want to cut these middlemen out I want to restore that one to one relationship with our doctors.
So what can people do to work towards getting the right people in Washington and to effect change towards protection the Constitution and the Second amendment, not only in Maine, but across the country?
Get involved, however you can. There are plenty of opportunities. Whether it’s knocking on doors, making phone calls, attending marches. There are many different opportunities for people depending on what people are comfortable with. In addition to that, whether you live in Maine, or live anywhere across the country we are a grassroots movement that is going to not only win this Senate race, but also is going to outlast this Senate race. You know Maine is a place where we have a strong Libertarian streak and this is a state that we can really plant our flag for the Constitution and the cause of Liberty in this election and in future elections. So be a part of that, get involved in our campaign however you can, and get out and vote.
Given your success in bringing some Democrats and Independents on board for Constitutional Carry here in Maine, do you feel that your ability to reach across the aisle is something that you can bring to the table in Washington?
Yes, you know I’ve always been very adamant that I’m not a partisan. I put my principles first. I think that sadly though, sometimes in Washington DC there’s this push to compromise and that compromise is so important and always a good thing. Well, it depends on what the compromise is, you know? I mean if the compromise is between them wanting to take 100% of your freedoms and us not willing to give up any of our freedoms, then trying to compromise and agreeing to giving away 50% of our freedoms is not a good compromise! That’s not a compromise in the right direction.
How I’ve always approached things is I am always looking for common ground. I could disagree with someone 90% of the time but that means we’ve got 10% common ground. We can find those issues where we agree and we can agree to work together on that. We can also work to make the disagreements we do have not personal . I mean frankly, I’ve often been a thorn in the side of many in my own party who probably wish I would toe the party line a bit more but i just try to let people know, look I have my principles, I always put my principles first, my principles are to always put the liberties of Maine people first, to fight for our right to live free in terms of how we live our lives how we exercise our liberties , and how we use our property so long as we are not harming others. That’s really my guiding light .
Sometimes that means I find more common ground with Republicans on Second Amendment issues, welfare reform or fiscal responsibility, and sometimes it means I find more common ground with Democrats on things like protecting our 4th amendment right to privacy . I’ve been a little disappointed sometimes with my fellow Republicans sometimes that we don’t always seem to champion the Fourth Amendment as well as we do the Second Amendment . I think that we can’t be cafeteria Constitutionalists. We can’t just pick and choose what we want to protect. We swear an oath to uphold the whole thing and if we just reject one part of it because we don’t like it, well that’s the same behavior that we criticize people about who don’t like the Second Amendment .
As I read the Constitution, our Bill of Rights, all of it is important. That includes our 9th amendment which says that essentially the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution shall not be used to disparage other rights retained by the people. That means we have infinite rights. The people have infinite rights. You know our rights don’t come from government they come from God, or if you don’t believe in God, they are just intrinsic to our nature as thinking rational human beings . We have the fundamental right to live free and to make our own choices in our own lives . Some people say that our rights come from government well if they do that means government can take them away from us. So I reject that idea . I’m here to stand up for rights of Maine citizens, and citizens across the country. That’s what I’m here for.