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Seacoast Online - Allen Promises He'll Fight for Change in D.C.

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Seacoast Online - Allen Promises He'll Fight for Change in D.C.

By Deborah McDermott

Congressman Tom Allen is clear. If Mainers want more of the same in Washington, they should vote for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. But if they want change, he is absolutely the person who should get their vote.

A Democrat, Allen is leaving his assured seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after 12 years to run against Collins, and he said his message is one more and more Maine residents area eager to hear.

"On the big issues, Susan and I are fundamentally different," he said. "That's the message that's going to resonate with people."

Allen would appear to have his work cut out for him. Polls conducted last week showed the race tightening to within as 8 percentage points. However, a poll conducted Monday by the liberal blog Daily Koz shows Collins with a 13 percent lead. The poll surveyed 600 likely voters — 204 Democrats, 162 Republicans and 234 independents.

Allen is undeterred. He said he will win the race by raising the alarm over what he sees as the fundamental flaws in Collins' voting record: votes in 2001, 2003 and 2006 in favor of President Bush's budgets, which included tax cuts for wealthier Americans, and her vote to authorize the war in Iraq and subsequent votes against imposing withdrawal deadlines.

"Susan is a moderate — and, sure, she's a formidable opponent," said Allen. "But on these issues, we look at things differently."

Allen said he is proud to have voted against the Bush tax cuts, and he believes most Mainers see things his way.

"It comes down to a simple choice. If people think the president's economic policies have made life better for them, they should vote for Susan. If they don't they should vote for me because I voted against every single one."

He is passionate about this distinction between himself and Collins, calling it "defining." The cuts added precipitously to the deficit, he said, and have hurt the middle class, which "is losing ground in Maine and across the country." He urged voters to think long and hard about the differing stances between him and Collins on this issue before casting their ballots.

He said he decided to run against Collins because he saw the country being led by a GOP that "had no concept of the consequences of the decisions they were making," and he feels he offers an alternative.

Allen, a Portland resident, served on the City Council there and as mayor before running for Congress. He's a Bowdoin College graduate and a Rhodes Scholar — having been educated at Oxford University at the same time as President Bill Clinton. He's also a graduate of Harvard Law School.

He and Collins have both made much of each other's voting record. A Congressional Quarterly survey indicates Collins voted 74 percent with President Bush; however, Allen claims her record stood at 81 percent until he declared his candidacy and she began voting against the president.

Collins for her part points to the fact that Allen has voted with his party 98 percent of the time. However, Allen said she knows that about half are "procedural votes" that aren't taken in the Senate.

"What you need to look at is the bills that I've sponsored and the kind of bipartisan support they've received," he said. "And I've reached across the aisle consistently during my time in Congress."

He points to bipartisan support to repeal Real ID, for the Middle Class Opportunity Act and for broadband Internet access in rural areas. His bill to ban the United States from exporting mercury was just signed into law by the president.

Another area of difference between him and Collins was in her support of US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Allen recently received the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of America, which had previously given the nod to Collins, specifically because of her Alito vote. It was the first time that Planned Parenthood has changed its position on a candidate in a Senate race.

Allen said Alito's conservative bent disturbs him.

"I would never have voted for him if I was in the Senate," he said. With three justices potentially getting ready to retire in the next four years — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens — "Roe versus Wade hangs in the balance."

In the end, Allen said, the question voters need to ask themselves is whether they want a change in Washington or more of the same. "It's really that simple," he said.

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