A surprising number of U.S. House members still stumble through their “Better Know a District” segments on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”

Not Chellie Pingree, the freshman Democrat from Maine who host Stephen Colbert says “has the cocktail sauce to represent” the lobster capital of the world.

Noting that Portland has the nation’s third highest concentration of women living together, Colbert said at the start of his 57th interview with a House member, “You don’t have to explain it, I just like the image.”

But Pingree, the former head of Common Cause and a longtime advocate for civil and human rights, did explain it.

“Maine basically is a very tolerant state. I think we’re far more tolerant of people of the same sex living together or choosing to get married or raise their family,” said the congresswoman. “We feel that’s the way life should be.”

Even as the discussion turned to lobster marriage, Pingree held her own with a sly grace that suggested Democratic congressional leaders should be giving this smart progressive a lot more “messaging” responsibility.

COLBERT: “How gay is Maine – on a scale of one to Maine?”

PINGREE: “Maine is a very gay friendly state. The state legislature just passed marriage equality.”

COLBERT: “Isn’t this just a gateway to lobster marriage?”

PINGREE: “Lobster marriage?”

COLBERT: “If I can marry another guy, what’s to keep me from marrying a lobster?”

PINGREE: “Would you want to marry a lobster?

COLBERT: “No, I wouldn’t want to marry another guy either. But where do you draw the line?”

PINGREE: “But that’s not what the argument is.”

COLBERT: “Really?”

PINGREE: “That’s what you’re trying to say to make people feel confused or think that this is some sort of thing that’s unpleasant. But it’s not.”

After nodding in agreement with the congresswoman’s description of the strategy, Colbert pressed the point.

COLBERT: “You don’t think its ever going to happen that people are going to marry lobsters?”

PINGREE: “Men don’t choose to marry lobsters.”

COLBERT: “That’s a pretty bold statement from someone who represents the lobster capital of the world.”

Pingree shrugged. “It’s just not going to happen.”

COLBERT: “Really?”


Then Pingree rebutted Colbert’s argument that if we replace fossil fuels with wind power “then we’ll eventually run out of wind.”

“See,” explained the congresswoman, “history doesn’t really bear that out.”

Admittedly, Colbert’s questions weren’t as crazy as those screeched by the town hall mobsters who are confronting Democratic members of Congress.

But Pingree’s smooth, savvy, good-humored and quick-witted responses to Colbert’s inquiries suggest she may be up for a quizzing from those who think that Barack Obama is Indonesian and that insurance companies run on the milk of human kindness.

In fact, she already has.

Not one for avoiding tough forums, Pingree began holding town hall meetings on healthcare reform in May – meeting with nurses, small-business owners, retirees and others throughout her district – and even held telephone town meetings with constituents while the House was in session.

Here’s the full Colbert interview with Chellie Pingree.

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Better Know a District – Maine’s 1st – Chellie Pingree
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