Editor’s note: This is the first of four profiles running in the next four Sunday editions on the individuals vying for Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat in Congress.
Tiffany Bond is anything but a typical congressional candidate.
For one thing, the public face of her independent campaign for Maine’s 2nd District seat exists mostly on Twitter, where the Portland attorney has more than 7,000 sometimes fanatic followers who appreciate her unconventional approach to politics.
On her 42nd birthday recently, Bond took to the social media network to declare that her day began “with a super cuddly child coming in to give me middle of the night birthday snuggles. And pee. Because, of course, pee.”
Another day, she asked online, “You ever find yourself up at 4 a.m. snuggling a 5-year-old that snuck into bed with mom and thinking about an orca desperately trying to save her calf, realizing we might not be that far behind if we don’t stop trashing our future? I have.”
The three men she’s running against in the Nov. 6 election don’t say stuff like that.
Though polls show Bond is trailing far behind the two frontrunners, two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Jared Golden, she’s angling to pull off an upset that would rock the political world.
She’s really keen to overturn the way politicians approach the job.
“All we pay attention to is a Kardashian version of politics,” Bond said.
It’s time to stop treating the political process “like reality TV,” Bond insisted, and find a way to choose lawmakers who will actually read the bills they vote on, stop taking campaign cash from those who want to influence them and offer humane, smart ideas for the country.
Bond hopes it begins with the impact of ranked-choice voting in Maine’s federal elections this year, the first time the new system has been employed to pick members of Congress.
Perhaps the new way of picking winners will somehow offer a path to victory for Bond, a Portland lawyer, or the contest’s other independent, Southwest Harbor educator Will Hoar.
Bond is not taking any campaign money, so there won’t be any commercials touting her or pretty mailings or hordes of supporters knocking on doors throughout the sprawling district.
Instead, she’s counting on social media and conventional news reporters to let people know she exists. Her campaign is mostly just her.
One of the tactics she’s adopted to catch the eye of voters — and help out Maine in the process — is something she calls #MaineRaising that asks people to buy something from a Maine business or help out a Maine charity.
It’s caught on enough that her recent bid to get her followers to lend a hand has helped at least 23 Maine teachers fund classroom projects that might otherwise have gone begging.
A music teacher from Augusta, Abby Jordan, said she’s glad “for some extra help” from people spurred to donate by Bond’s campaign.
“It’s exciting to think that there’s a candidate out there that wants to be known for positive actions versus negative attacks on opponents,” she said.
Jordan said that Bond “is willing to invest in something that will benefit all of us by investing in our future, which is our kids” instead of contributing to fuss and furor that surrounds modern-day campaigns.
Last winter, she got people to help pay for heating oil for those in need during a cold snap.
It’s all part of her effort to draw people in and provide “a laser-beam focus” on the district she hopes to represent.
In a race where $20 million or more is likely to be spent trying to sway voters eyeing Poliquin or Golden, she said she may wind up more popular than political insiders guess because so many Mainers just want to see a return to “regular, normal, moderate politics” instead of the nuttiness that has consumed the process in recent years.
“I’m not some super-polished, pre-packaged candidate commodity,” Bond said.
Whether that’s what voters want may depend in part on whether or not her unconventional approach to electioneering pays off.
Given that Bond’s political journey in Maine has been anything but conventional, maybe she’ll find a way.
Bond grew up a Republican. Born in Oregon’s Portland, where her family had settled long ago after journeying across the Great Plains in covered wagons, she moved to Washington at age 5 after a stint in Hawaii.
In the Seattle area, she developed a marketing business and served as a parks commissioner for Woodinville, a town on the outskirts of the city known for its wineries and agricultural tourism. She was also on the board of the local chamber of commerce.
At 27, Bond started taking classes at the local community college and by 2008 she had a four-year degree in hand with a marketing major. She earned a minor in human rights.
At one point, Bond said, “I had one of those ‘Legally Blonde’ moments and decided to go to law school.”
So she moved to Philadelphia, completed a year of law school and then added a master’s in business administration from Drexel University in 2010.
Married to Matthew Pearson, a seafaring soul, Bond took her first year of law school at Drexel then transferred to the University of Maine, which she said told her she could pay in-state tuition if she bought a house in Maine. So they got a Dutch colonial in Portland.
She earned her law degree in 2012 and a year later had a solo practice focused on family matters that’s kept her busy ever since. She calls herself “a relationship mortician” trying to help clients cope with the pitfalls life throws at them.
Watching people deal with the heartaches and hardships of everyday life in rural Maine made her think about jumping into the political fray — as an independent, since she’s not fond of the partisanship fostered by political parties.
She said she personally collected 1,663 signatures of the more than 2,000 she submitted to get on the ballot, gathering signatures from people in 219 towns in the sprawling district.
“Everyone I spoke with wants a safe place with fair rules and a chance to thrive,” Bond said.
“We really need someone who has firsthand experience and knows how laws help or hurt people,” she said. “I hope having someone with an in-the-trenches background in the race encourages each of the candidates to put forward our very best for Maine.”
Bond doesn’t reside in the district she hopes to represent, though she said she wants to move with her husband and two boys out of Portland soon.
One reason she’s waiting, Bond said, is that if she emerges on top on Election Day, she might want to buy a home in northern Maine because she won’t have to worry anymore about getting to legal proceedings across the state.
Bond said that if voters hear about her, she has a shot.
“I’m a viable candidate. I’m qualified,” Bond said.
For her own entertainment, she even wades through bills submitted as possible laws.
“I read this stuff for fun,” Bond said. “I would really enjoy having a full-time job where I get to dig through thousands of pages of proposed legislation each month.”
If she lands in Congress, she said, she would be “a regular person doing this job” Monday to Friday and then putting herself on “mom duty” each weekend.
She said she has no interest in living like “these big, fancy people down in D.C.” racing around 24/7.
“What we have now is awful,” Bond said. And she’d like a chance to fix it.
This is the first of four profiles of the candidates for the 2nd District congressional race.
Sept. 2: Tiffany Bond, independent
Today: Jared Golden, Democrat
Sept. 16: Will Hoar, independent
Sept. 23: Bruce Poliquin, Republican