Two months into her new job as state representative, 25-year-old Mattie Daughtry has made her mark on Maine’s legislature. The youngest woman in the assembly, Daughtry has already proposed 11 bills in efforts to support education, action on climate change, improvement on mental health services.
Daughtry went to Brunswick High School, and took a few classes at Bowdoin during her time there, which resulted in a lifelong allegiance to the College. Growing up in a political family—her parents were actively involved in the community and her godmother was a state representative—Daughtry developed an early interest in politics, and remembers campaigning on Maine Street to be president of the United States at the age of six.
“An older man walked up to me and told me that I couldn’t be president because I was a girl, and girls don’t become presidents,” she said. After that, “an amazing group of women involved with the Brunswick Democratic Town Committee sort of raised me. It really does take a village to raise a state rep.”
At Smith College, Daughtry majored in studio art and stayed involved with journalism, hoping to work at NPR after graduating. She started doing freelance work for photographer Michelle Stapleton after graduating in 2009, and also created a food blog.
“I once went to hear Governor Paul LePage speak, and he said that the reason many under-30 year olds could not afford health insurance was because they spend all their money on iPhones and iPads,” Daughtry said. “It got me really mad, so I went on a tirade against the governor on my blog and it went viral. I started getting feedback from people all over the state sharing their stories, and it got me fired up.”
She then went on to do opposition and bill research for Maine’s Majority, an organization that represents the 61 percent of Maine that didn’t vote for LePage.
Last June, Daughtry was following the senate primaries when Alex Cornell du Houx ’06 announced he was not running for reelection. “I was so fired up, I had so much I cared about, I saw work could be done in Augusta, and it was my hometown and there was so much at stake. I want kids from Bowdoin to be able to stay in Brunswick.”
After handily winning the race for Maine District 66, which encompasses a portion of Brunswick between McKeen Street and the river and includes approximately 300 Bowdoin students, Daughtry was officially sworn in on December 5.
She now serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs and is a member of the under-35 youth caucus. One of her main focuses thus far has been to limit the creation of for-profit virtual charter schools.
“I’m opposed to surging forward to create schools to benefit organizations and not kids,” she said. “Predatory companies are coming into districts and are not fitting the needs of our children, and they have already bankrupted many areas.”
Another major focus of Daughtry’s has been empowering the local food movement and making agricultural studies a required part of school curricula.
“I used to be teased for being a hick, but it just so happened that I grew up in Brunswick and my parents happened to own chickens and teach me about farming,” she said. “Many schools have built these new gardens, but because of the requirements placed on teachers they can’t use the garden as a teaching tool.”
Other bills she proposed include banning dangerous coal tar sealants in pavement, and reclassifying the Androscoggin River because of recent cleanup efforts.
Maine’s paltry education budget also worries Daughtry, who thinks the lack of resources is driving away young people from Maine.
“Many municipalities are worried that no matter what budget they create now, due to the governor’s extreme budget it’s going to get cut,” she said. “It will greatly hurt Maine, with the threat of cutting prescription drug assistance for the elderly and increasing property taxes—thus scaring youth from coming to the state—to make up for the deficit. The impact to Brunswick would be at least two million dollars, but I honestly think it would be closer to $5 million. The governor won’t let us raise revenue and it’s absolutely awful. Revenue should not be a dirty word. The scary thing is the upcoming biennial budget would cut all municipal revenue sharing, which means the state would stop giving money to the towns.”
On the topic of global warming, Daughtry believes that the efforts to increase fuel efficiency, diversify Maine’s energy portfolio, and move away from fossil fuel dependency currently going in practice are helpful, but not sufficient.
“I think climate change is really the number one issue for our age group,” she said. “It’s a reality as a global threat, but a particularly pertinent issue to Maine. Economically it’s going to devastate us, as we depend on tourism and our ski areas are already having a decline in snow making days. The temperatures are rising so the fisheries are in trouble, and fossil fuel prices are too high and lobster prices too low for lobstermen to go out. Now is the time to invest in innovation in renewable resources, and this is when we figure out what we’ll do going forward."
Daughtry said she is “all for gun control measures. We don’t live in the wild west and we have to make sure as a society that we’re safe. We have to enforce the existing laws; we need to close a lot of the loopholes.”
Daughtry said she is “absolutely 100 percent opposed to the measure that an educator should have a firearm.”
She sees the current state of the mental health system as the bigger issue, because of the stigmatization associated with counseling and health services.
“We can introduce as many gun measures one way or another, but until we are taking are of those who need it and have a health system that can cover everyone it won’t be enough,” she said. “People are scared to admit failure…The biggest issue is a complete and utter overhaul of our mental health system where everyone has access to mental health.
“My goal is to get more young people involved with politics, because if you have ideas, you can make real policy change,” Daughtry said. “I’m a firm believer that it just takes one step, and if I’m that person out there screaming her head off that we need to do something, all the better.”