Valley native runs for Senate
This is the former Valley resident's second attempt to become a U.S. senator.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A woman born in Youngstown and reared in Boardman is running a long-shot campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Maine.
Democrat Jean Hay Bright was born Marlyn Jean Hay in Youngstown in 1947 and lived on the city's East Side until moving in 1958 to Boardman. She is a 1965 Boardman High School graduate. Classmates and friends knew her as Marlyn, but her family called her Jean. Her mother, Olga, and brother, Joseph, still live in Mahoning County.
Polls have U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, the Republican incumbent, with a significant lead over Bright.
While attending Youngstown University from 1965 to 1966 studying to become a medical technologist, she worked full time in the order department of the main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown & amp; Mahoning County's and lived during the week at the nearby YWCA.
"I credit the wonderful education I received in Youngstown and Boardman for providing me with knowledge and an interest in analyzing things," Bright said in a telephone interview. "I had a very good public education. It helped me to better understand what was going on in the political world. I still visit a few times a year and am proud to be from Youngstown and Boardman."
After marrying Keith Heavrin, her high school sweetheart, who served in the Vietnam War, Bright moved to California, Mississippi and Rhode Island between 1966 and 1971. While in Rhode Island, Bright worked as an editorial assistant at The Providence Journal newspaper. The couple was divorced in 1979. She is married to David Bright, a computer installation specialist and former newspaper reporter.
Bright moved to Harborside, Maine, in 1972, as a homesteader, growing her own food. After discovering that a power company was planning to build a nuclear power plant near her home, she spoke to an editor at the Bangor Daily News.
"I went in to complain that it wasn't being covered by the newspaper," she said. "I told the editor that I knew it was news because I had been an editorial assistant for the Journal. I left with a job."
Bright spent 10 years at the newspaper before leaving to be an organic farmer in Blue Hill, Maine.
The political bug hit her in 1992 when she worked on the failed campaign of a Democratic congressional candidate. Then-U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews hired her in 1993 as a legislative assistant, a job she held for a year.
In 1994 she ran in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, finishing sixth out of seven candidates. In 1996, she finished a distant fourth among five Democratic candidates in the party's primary for U.S. Senate.
In 1998, she received a bachelor of university studies with a journalism focus from the University of Maine. Though she went back to being an organic farmer in 1999 in Dixmont, Bright maintained her interest in politics.
She was a Dennis Kucinich alternate delegate during the Cleveland congressman's failed 2004 presidential campaign, a founding member of the Maine Progressive Caucus, a political columnist for small Maine newspapers, and the author of three self-published books, including one titled, "Proud to Be a Card-Carrying, Flag-Waving, Patriotic American Liberal."
Finally, a win
In June, Bright finally won a Democratic primary, beating Eric Mehnert by about 600 votes out of about 44,000 cast.
Though Snowe is considered to be among the most moderate Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Bright said that's not the case. Bright points to Snowe's vote for the Iraq war.
"We are fighting here to make people in Maine realize the perception is not reality," Bright said. "While we're behind in the polls, people say we'll do better than expected and I'm excited about this race."
National Journal, a publication that follows federal politics, states Snowe's votes show she leans slightly to the liberal side on social and foreign issues and slightly conservative on economic issues.