via The Forecaster
by David Harry
PORTLAND — Lauren Besanko of the Green Independent Party is making her first run for elected office. [...]
Lauren Besanko, 25, of 4 Monument St., shares an alma mater with Russell, having graduated USM in 2012 with a double major in psychology and criminology. She is now an events scheduler for the Green Independent Party.
“I decided to run because I believe in there being progressive women in government and Green representation in a town where there are so many people who want to see green initiatives happen," she said.
She agrees with Russell on legalizing marijuana, increase the minimum wage, and restoring funding and a stronger mission for USM. She also wants to remove corporate influences from politics.
As a Green Independent, she said she is in position to end the influences.
"I am not corporately funded, I am not part of a corporate party. Therefore I cannot be beholden to anyone but the voters,” Besanko said.
In a sense, what Russell wants, Besanko wants more of: advocating a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, and ensuring that any legalization of marijuana will also protect small farmers who would like to grow it as a cash crop.
Russell's last legalization bill called for a $50 excise tax on each ounce produced. Besanko would like a lower tax rate, she said.
She would also like to use her degrees toward changing law enforcement policies, especially concerning drug abuse.
"I would look to see we are not so punitive and have more rehabilitation, a more humanist take,” Besanko said.
Besanko also blamed USM trustees for not listening to students and faculty about university problems.
"I am appalled at what is going on at the university," she said. "The education I received at USM I valued greatly. My professors were amazing, they were there to educate students not as people to perpetuate the status quo, but as people to change the world.”
A Gorham native, Besanko said she is also attuned to rural issues her party can fully address.
“Portland is kind of its own thing, but I know there are a lot of people in rural areas who get behind Green issues,” she said.
Besanko said Green Independent positions are too often miscast.
"The Greens are the true fiscal conservatives, because the initiatives they suggest are cheaper in the long run, even if they have upfront costs,” she said.
Besanko said she is enjoying her first campaign for office and finds it suits her personality.
"When I decided to do this, I knew it would be a growing experience and a way to focus on what I truly believe," she said. "It would mean I am meeting more people and getting their insights. I am just by nature a very social person.”