Tea Party Patriots host U.S. Senate challenger

By Ethan Andrews | Dec 27, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Maine Senator and U.S. Senate challenger Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, speaks at a meeting of Tea Party Patriots of Midcoast Maine at Abundant Grace Ministries in Searsmont Dec. 21.

Searsmont — What would the founding fathers think if they could see a future president setting school bathroom policy from Washington D.C.? Maine Senator and U.S. Senate challenger Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, posed this rhetorical zinger to a group at Abundant Grace Ministries Dec. 21, where he was invited to speak at a meeting of the Tea Party Patriots of Midcoast Maine.

The reference to Barack Obama's guidelines on bathroom choice for transgender students drew laughs from the Libertarian-leaning crowd. Most in attendance seemed to share Brakey's view that federal government has grown far too large.

Brakey, a two-term Republican state senator, is hoping to unseat Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King — or "kick him off his throne," as he put it — in 2018.

That's a tall order against a popular former governor and incumbent senator, but Brakey has been the underdog before. He was Maine state director for Ron Paul during the former Iowa senator's unsuccessful presidential bid in 2012 — Paul's son and fellow constitutionalist Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has already endorsed Brakey in this election. In 2014, Brakey upset incumbent Maine Sen. John Cleveland, who had been returned to the Senate more than a decade after he served four consecutive terms there.

Brakey told the crowd of about 30 people in Searsmont that he would count Rand Paul among his allies in Washington. That list of allies included just two other names, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but Brakey said he would have to start somewhere. His goal, and one he shares with the Tea Party, is to reduce the federal government to its original purpose as outlined in the Constitution.

Occasionally pulling a pocket-sized copy of the founding document from the pocket of his suit jacket, he assured the group in Searsmont that he wouldn't compromise in his quest to do away with unconstitutional laws, even if it meant casting the lone dissenting vote as he has in Augusta from time to time.

Asked how he would accomplish more than moral victories, Brakey talked about exploiting the desire of most politicians to get re-elected. He referred to a 2015 bill he sponsored to eliminate the permit requirement for carrying concealed firearms, in which he and other supporters prevailed "by creating the environment around the wrong people where it's in their political interest to do the right thing."

Senators who personally opposed the bill were flooded with calls from constituents asking them to support it, he said, and some were willing to change their tune.

Brakey didn't say what would happen if his office were flooded with calls from voters demanding legislation he opposed. One attendee expressed disgust at representatives who say, "I voted my conscience."

"I look at it differently," Brakey said. "My conscience is the Constitution."

The 29-year-old would narrowly make the minimum age for U.S. Senate when he turns 30 next August. If elected, he would become Maine's youngest senator ever, according to a Bangor Daily News report based on research from the Maine Law and Legislative Library.

Brakey fielded a number of questions about immigration, sidestepping what seemed to be a strong anti-Muslim feeling from some attendees, who expressed concern that Islamic churches in the U.S. are recruiting anti-American fundamentalists.

He condemned America's pattern of removing dictators, which he said destabilizes countries and opens the door to extremism. On immigration, he paraphrased the economist Milton Friedman, who said a state with open borders cannot also be a welfare state.

"We can be a free nation, we can be a generous nation," he said, "but we can't be the solution to the world's poverty problem."

The larger goals shared by the Tea Party and constitutionalist Republicans like Brakey include eliminating the Department of Education and other major areas of government not outlined in the Constitution. Brakey said this could come about through a kind of reckoning, as bills come due on decades of deficit spending and the government can no longer afford to pay for its non-essential programs.

"A lot of these things are going to come to an end someday," he said.

Brakey didn't seem to relish the idea of a government collapse, but he's hoping to dismantle its unnecessary parts from the inside.

Maine Senator and U.S. Senate challenger Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, speaks at a meeting of Tea Party Patriots of Midcoast Maine at Abundant Grace Ministries in Searsmont Dec. 21. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
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