First District MP Chellie Pingree likes to talk about her role in boosting agriculture in our state, but when asked about her motivation to overthrow her, her likely Republican opponent referred to an American farmer. in particular: Thomas Jefferson.
“We need more citizen-servants in Washington,” Ed Thelander told me when I asked him why he is challenging the six-term holder. Much like Jefferson, the Founding Father, called for citizen-lawmakers and a revolution every 15 years, Thelander thinks the time has come to shake it up.
“I’m not exaggerating when I look around and say I barely recognize my country,” Thelander said in his campaign announcement speech at the Maine Maritime Museum in late August. He chose the date of his announcement – August 28 – because it was the 58th anniversary of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” speech.
When it comes to public service, Thelander has earned his chops. A retired Navy SEAL, he was joined on stage as he kicked off with the Afghan translator who served with him in the Central Asian country from which the United States withdrew its forces on 31 August.
During his time with the elite military unit, he learned the importance of group cohesion and understanding the situation on the ground, he says. In addition to Afghanistan, Thelander served in Yemen, a hot spot in the Middle East.
It was the Navy that first brought Thelander to Maine, where he settled with his wife and three children in Lincoln County ten years ago. In his life after the SEALs, he continued to find ways to serve the public, first as a volunteer firefighter in Alna and more recently as an assistant in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. He used his advanced firearms to train law enforcement officers across the state and also worked as a security consultant for well-known brands like Rolex and Nike.
“I choose my clients carefully,” he told me. “I am proud of the fact that there are no skeletons in my closet.”
With some modesty, Thelander described his skills as a carpenter, recounting how he himself built his old home in Virginia. A regular participant in the annual Luge Championship at the Camden Snow Bowl, he builds his team’s sled every year.
“There is no shortage of talented carpenters in Maine, but I always like to keep my hand in the game,” he said with a smile.
In recent years, Thelander has also worked as an excavator. Along with his work as a subcontractor, he applied his construction skills to the non-profit organization Stepping Stones, which helps single mothers coming out of difficult situations find temporary accommodation.
With a handsome rugged appearance and serious demeanor, Thelander already has attractive attributes for a candidate. But it’s also realistic to be new to the game of politics. Carried by confidence not only in his own abilities, the Bristol resident sees a role for ordinary men in the corridors of power.
“We have to fight apathy in this country,” he said with determination, explaining that only 30% of veterans currently vote. What drives him is the feeling that too many ordinary people are being left behind by career politicians.
Residual public anger over the sloppy way in which the Biden administration withdrew from Afghanistan last month suggests the winds may be blowing on candidates like Ed Thelander next fall. Having dedicated his career to making people safer, the former SEAL has a message for the Mainers of the First District who fear they have lost their voice.
In the year to come, he said, he’s going to prove he’s there for them.
Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who grew up in Knox County and worked for the last three Republican Senators in Maine.
What happens in Frenchman’s Bay can happen in Penobscot then