A Wiscasset woman has entered the race for House District 87, which includes Alna, Wiscasset, Pittston, and Randolph. Wendy Ross, a communications professional turned social-justice activist in retirement, is challenging incumbent Jeffrey Hanley, R-Pittston, to fight for policies that will benefit working families, she said.
“I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” Ross said. “I believe in the Democratic values of raising the standard of living for everyone, and I want to make sure the House remains in Democratic control.” Ross was encouraged to run for office by Democratic legislators, she said.
She plans to hit the campaign trail hard with door-to-door canvasses after the primary in June, she said. Ross is unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and is running as a clean-elections candidate.
She is running for the Legislature not just because of the encouragement of her fellow Democrats, but also out of alarm about the growing poverty rate in Maine, she said. Her bid for the Legislature also makes her four sons and two grandchildren proud, she said.
No stranger to the political process, Ross formerly worked for Voice of America and the U.S. Information Agency, both government-funded news sources; the U.S. Information Agency has since been folded into the U.S. Department of State. While working for the U.S. Information Agency, Ross covered Congress during the Cold War era; her stories were distributed to embassies throughout the world.
She also worked as a White House correspondent and was well-acquainted with the iconic journalist Helen Thomas. Ross would later bring Thomas to speak in Lincoln County as part of a speaker series she organized through Citizens Offering New Alternatives, a Lincoln County grass-roots organization devoted to social and environmental issues.
Ross was also a congressional fellow in the early 1970s, working as a staff member on Capitol Hill as part of a highly selective program.
“I spent a lot of time around Congress,” Ross said. “I understand the legislative process, the importance of reaching across the aisle, how to get bills passed and get things done.”
While Ross’ career kept her in Washington, D.C., she has long ties to Wiscasset, and returned to live in Lincoln County full-time upon her retirement in 2005. Ross’ great-great-great grandfather was a Sortwell and she has extensive family ties to the area.
After caring for her mother during the final stages of her life in Jefferson, Ross and her husband, Tom Eichler, moved into the family house in Wiscasset, the Sortwell-Foye farm.
While working for the U.S. Information Agency, Ross did not take sides on issues, she said. Upon her retirement, however, she became active in a variety of community and social-justice organizations. She is a member of Citizens Offering New Alternatives, is president of the board of directors for the Wiscasset Public Library, and is a member of the board of directors for Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights.
Ross has also been active with the Lincoln County Historical Association, the Garden Club of Wiscasset, and the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, now part of Midcoast Conservancy. Ross is a member of the Morris Farm’s community solar farm.
If elected, Ross said she hopes to institute more family-friendly policies that will make it easier for parents and single mothers to work and raise their children. She would like to see more skilled, higher-paying jobs in Maine, and is in favor of increasing broadband access to attract startup companies to Maine.
She is also in favor of increasing state funding for education and Medicaid expansion.
While Ross has “strongly held beliefs” and is not the biggest fan of Gov. Paul LePage, “the fighting, negativity, and attacking is not helping,” she said. “It doesn’t work. I would try to work in a bipartisan fashion.”
Ross and Hanley “are diametrically opposed on a lot of the issues,” she said. The election “is going to be interesting.”