Terry Hayes bumps her fists together to illustrate the point of her independent campaign to become the next governor of Maine. One fist represents state Democrats, the other represents Republicans.
Bump. Bump. Bump.
“I understand that’s what candidates do before Election Day,” said Hayes, who lives in Buckfield. She was referring to the clash of ideologies and personalities and the fight for votes to push an agenda forward.
“But now, it doesn’t stop after the elections. People are still campaigning. The winners are fighting each other. We used to debate our differences and work to find common ground for the good of Maine.
“We used to send Christmas cards to our colleagues across the aisle.” Hayes paused, knowing she had just injected a little levity into what is a serious matter to her. But that’s also part of her larger point. She’s not asking for smiles and hugs.
Civility in the workplace would be nice, with a newly elected governor setting the tone.
Hayes, at 60, is the unlikely renegade. She served Buckfield and its neighboring communities from 2006 to 2014. She was a Democrat while in the Legislature and was Assistant Minority Floor Leader from 2010 to 2012.
Hayes understands party loyalty but is an independent thinker. Working for the greater good rather than fighting a political foe made more sense to her.
Hayes is Maine’s state treasurer, nominated by Republicans and elected by bipartisan vote. A former teacher and the mother of three adult children. And a wife who knew she had discovered her life partner two days after meeting him.
They found each other in an Old Port pub on a Friday night more than 30 years ago. She was with two of her sisters, but something about Terry Roberts caught Steve Hayes’ eye. He approached her, introducing himself with a wild pickup line that’s too good not to repeat here.
Steve was a male stripper, he said, to Terry’s astonishment. As she was running an image through her mind, Steve clarified that he worked for a furniture company.
They met again the next day. On Sunday, they spoke of getting married. Love keeps its own schedule.
Steve Hayes is a mental health therapist, using spirituality, at times, to help heal and promote understanding. He’s been with his wife a lot as she campaigns. At the Oxford County Fair, for instance, he helped collect $5 donations for her Clean Election campaign.
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At the same time, Terry approached fairgoers at picnic tables, asking if she could talk with them as they chewed fried dough or sausage dogs or haddock sandwiches. At the other end of the small fairgrounds, The Marshall Tucker Band was in the middle of its set.
Hayes’ message was the same: Aren’t you tired of the bickering in Augusta?
Weeks later, during a relatively quiet Thursday evening at the Fryeburg Fair, a Hayes volunteer stood near a small table displaying campaign materials and talking to various fairgoers who wanted to know more. The volunteer wore the distinctive lime-green Hayes campaign T-shirt with “People over Partisanship” emblazoned on its back.
That message clashed with another T-shirt being sold by a vendor elsewhere on the fairgrounds: “If you don’t like Trump, you probably won’t like me. And I’m OK with that.”
Hayes is no Pollyanna. Three of the four gubernatorial candidates have backstories of growing up under difficult, if not tragic, circumstances. Hayes, born as Theresea Roberts – her father added the extra “e” by mistake to the birth certificate – is one.
Hayes lost her mother when she was 8. Natalie Roberts, a nurse at what is now Maine Medical Center, came home from her shift one day, went to bed and virtually didn’t leave it for months. She eventually was admitted to the Augusta Mental Health Institute, where she was a patient for years.
Natalie Roberts gave birth to five daughters and one son in a seven-year span, ending in 1965. Terry was the second oldest. Her father was a carpenter for a home builder in the Portland area and couldn’t care for six young children alone. They were placed in an orphanage in Scarborough. The siblings were together, but of course it was difficult. Paul, 4, and Janine, 3, were the youngest.
They rejoined their father on Saturdays. After about two years, when Terry was 11, Charles Roberts brought his children home for good, he thought. Less than a year after their reunion though, he was dead, crushed by a car he was repairing at his home when the jack failed.
The six siblings had to be separated, going to live with various members of their extended family. “We didn’t lose touch with each other,” says Hayes. “We were still a family.”
She knows she faces a big challenge to amplify her message. Hayes tells the story of searching for Mary McAleney in the past year. McAleney was a teacher at Catherine McAuley High School, where Hayes was a student at the all-girls Catholic school in Portland in the early 1970s. Hayes had lost touch with the woman who had been her early mentor.
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McAleney taught science, but her passion was public service and politics. She discovered and nurtured that same interest in some of her students, taking them to the Democrats’ Maine State Convention one year to serve primarily as pages or provide whatever help was needed. Hayes was one those students.
“I think it opened the eyes of most of the girls, including Terry,” said McAleney. She ticked off the names of a few others who later became involved in community service or politics. McAleney, who grew up in Portland, would later take her own dream away from the classrooms and labs at McAuley to Washington D.C.
Mary Mac, as she’s fondly called by Maine Democrats, became then-U.S. Sen. George Mitchell’s chief of staff.
Hayes was accepted at Bowdoin College but says some of the Sisters at Catherine McAuley tried to dissuade her. Bowdoin had only recently switched from an all-male student body. And, it was a college started by Protestants. McAleney was one who encouraged Hayes to choose Bowdoin.
Hayes called her former mentor to tell of her decision to run for Maine governor. She asked if she could count on McAleney’s vote in November. Hayes wasn’t surprised by the answer.
“Oh, no, I vote for the Democrats, and you’re not running as a Democrat.” Undaunted, Hayes had a comeback. “But when I’m in the Blaine House, will you come see me?”
Of course, said McAleney. For Hayes and McAleney, that brief back-and-forth illustrated the point. After the election, it’s time to put aside such differences.
It was a point Hayes made at a recent candidates’ forum. “We’re celebrated by our aspirations or defined by our fears.”
Q&A with Terry Hayes
On why she decided to enter the race for Maine governor:
Terry Hayes: It wasn’t a third-grade ambition, and I tried to talk myself out of it. I made a list of who might run and came up with about 20 names. I decided I could compete with anyone on that list. (But) I really love my husband and for 18 months I wasn’t going to be seeing him as much as I wanted.
Once I was in, I was in. If I make the commitment, I make the commitment.
On what government means to her:
Hayes: At its core, government is a relationship business. Sometimes (Gov. Paul LePage) would rather fight than win. He sees the world as black and white. I love Maine and I don’t want to see this state go through something like that again.
On how she views the gubernatorial campaign:
Hayes: This is a job application. I’m in an 18-month interview with 500,000 voters. My one fear is to live in a Maine that is divisive. We can see the humanity in others even though we see the world differently.
On her introduction to the world of politics when a high school teacher brought her and several other students to a Democratic State Convention:
Hayes: It was a great learning experience. Here were grownups with funny hats marching around hootin’ and hollerin’ and having a grand time. Oh my God. But I listened to the speeches. I was hooked.
On how she relaxes:
Hayes: I got my pilot’s license. I found out it cost less to learn how to fly than go to therapy sessions, and I had more fun going up in the air.