Friday, November 18, 2016

Nomination Speech of Rep. Hickman for Speaker of the House

Nomination Speech of Representative Craig V. Hickman for Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives – November 18, 2016

Good morning. Mr. Chair, members-Elect of the House Democratic caucus, family and friends. Representative-Elect Rachel Talbot Ross and Representative-Elect Scott Hamann, I am humbled and honored to accept your nomination for Speaker of the House. Rachel, your father’s legacy is a blessing, and so are you. You have both made history. I am proud of you. And Scott, I am proud to call you my friend and am grateful for our friendship. Thank you both for your kind words in support of my nomination.

To my colleagues, I want to congratulate all of you for your victories on Election Day. Those of us in competitive races couldn’t have prevailed without the help and support of Democratic staff and volunteers, a well-organized coordinated campaign from the Party under the leadership of Phil Bartlett, Peggy Shaffer, and Jonathan Asen, and all the work of the House Democratic Campaign Committee under the leadership of Speaker Mark Eves, Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon and Sean Smith.

I stand before you today not because I lack confidence in Sara as Speaker of the House or Gay as Speaker of the House, and mean neither any disrespect given how hard they have worked on their campaigns and many of yours.

I stand before you today because a vocal and persuasive group of constituents pushed me hard to put my name into nomination for this office, even against the odds. I tend to do what a vocal and persuasive group of constituents tells me to do.

I stand before you today perplexed, anxious about our future, fearful of the loss of progress on so many issues that go to the core of our beings, and, yet, I remain hopeful and motivated to fight for what is right and I firmly believe that good will prevail.

I stand before you today because I believe that I can navigate the proceedings of this chamber and the responsibilities of this presiding office through the troubled waters ahead, while standing strong on the values we hold dear as Democrats.


My parents, Hazelle and Minnie Juanita Hickman, were children of the Great Depression. My father hailed from Mississippi and was a World War II veteran who worked for 30 years in office services for Pabst Brewing Company because the color of his skin did not allow him to have the job of his dreams, an air traffic controller at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Field, even after being a plotter for the Tuskegee Airmen at the United States Army Air Corps Moton Field in Alabama. My mother grew up in Ohio and held a string of part-time jobs, including a stint at the VA, in order to help put food on the table and make ends meet. She also fed young throwaway girls who showed up on our doorstep looking for food and temporary shelter. My parents were frugal, wise, resilient, and principled people, generous to a fault and strict as all get out. They believed in God and family. And they worked hard, proving the tenet of a black Texas dairy farmer that one works “not to be rich, but to be free.”

They taught my older sister and me the power of community and self-sufficiency. They taught us to revere public service as a responsibility and a duty. They taught us the values of fairness and equality, in the most literal and fundamental sense of those words: “Every person gets a life, and every person should have a fair and equal chance to make that life as good and right as she or he can.”

I believe these are Maine values, too.

Throughout my childhood in the seventies and early eighties, I remember the steel car frames that stacked five to six stories high. A.O. Smith, which manufactured the frames, was a factory just a few blocks away from my house in the inner city, a factory that paid good money for good jobs. When I left Milwaukee for New England back in 1986, the stacks had shrunk to two stories. By the time I graduated college four years later, those steel car frames were completely gone from the neighborhood skyline. A decade more and urban decay set in around closed factories all over Milwaukee and the Rust Belt. Young people with a high-school diploma could no longer earn a living with a minimum-wage job in the service sector. NAFTA had come to Wisconsin and too many good-paying, blue-collar jobs disappeared into the clouds, like smoke.

This is a big part of Maine’s story, too.

Which is partly why I am so comfortable here and have adopted Maine as my very own.

And my community has shown time and time again that it doesn’t matter what you look like or who you love or how you walk or talk—it only matters what you do. So they have now sent me here three times to represent them. Three times. The highest honor of my life.

Among the many things that I have learned in my time here in Augusta is that we need to write a new chapter to the part of Maine’s story that features shuttered factories and disappearing jobs and all the malaise that people in struggling communities endure, from poverty and hopelessness and despair, to substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety.

We have our work cut out for us. But we can do it. We can begin to write that new chapter if we listen more intently to the voices of those who cry in the dark. As Michele Lamont wrote in her book The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class and Immigration, for many blue-collar workers, “The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. ‘The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,’ a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal.”

Or, to put it another way, we work not to be rich, but to be free.


If a miracle happens—and it's gonna take a miracle—and you decide to nominate me for Speaker of the House, I will do my best to lead us in strengthening the institution of the House of Representatives and wielding its constitutional powers more assertively.

If we can do that, then, I believe we will be in a stronger position to continue to create better public policy that protects veterans and seniors, small businesses, working families, our natural resources, and our personal liberties.

Policy that promotes food self-sufficiency and clean renewable energy.
Policy that increases investments in displaced worker training and infrastructure and rebuilds razed rural economies.
Policy that supports self-regulated local food systems and strengthens farming, fishing, and forestry—our heritage industries.
Policy that ensures liberty and justice for all.


In order to move Maine forward, I will work to build a more specific agenda for our caucus and for the Legislature from the ground up. As a farmer, I know that good things bear fruit from the bottom of the plant to the top. As a farmer, I know that all things thrive in the full light of day. Therefore, building consensus and increasing transparency will be the hallmarks of my approach to governance.

In a government this closely divided, I will continue to strengthen working relationships with the administration and our Republican and Independent colleagues, in order to whittle away at gridlock and ensure key checks and balances.

I will always remain civil in the face of incivility, refuse to scapegoat any group of people for any reason whatsoever, and carefully choose words befitting the office to which I have been elected.
And if I have my way, we will end hunger, once and for all, we will eradicate poverty, and we will move Maine toward prosperity.

And so as we go away this afternoon, let us go away confident in the knowledge that we have elected a strong and competent leadership team who will serve the People of the State honorably.


Brilliantly blessed are those who work to create unity out of vast diversity, for they will experience heaven on earth.

Now, while we may never feel as though this hallowed place is heaven, we do form lasting friendships here. We will need to create unity among our caucus, in all its diversity: North and South, Coastal and Inland, Rural and Urban, Second CD and First.

The road before us is long and may be full of land mines. In order for us to succeed—and we will succeed—our leadership team will need the active participation, support and cooperation from each and every one of us; and each and every one of us will need our leadership team to navigate the troubled waters that will come upon us with integrity and grace, with wisdom and strength.

We can do it because we are Mainers.

We can do it because we are Democrats.

We can do it because, soon, we will all be sworn in as members of the Maine House of Representatives, the People’s House. 

The voters entrusted us with this majority. And we will. Not. Let. Them. Down.

Congratulations again to all of you. Thank you once more to Rachel and Scott for nominating me and for the opportunity to speak.

I look forward to our work together and I will support our nominee for Speaker of the House one hundred percent.

Thank you.

Take care of your blessings. 


House Democrats chose Representative Sara Gideon as our nominee for Speaker of the House. The full House will officially  elect her to the position on Swearing-In Day, December 7, 2016.

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