Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Nothing surprised me in Maine politics over the last two weeks save for someone penning the definitive book about Maine Gov. Paul LePage before I had the chance to publish my own political tell-all tome about the life, times and controversies of LePage.
Technically not a book, John Christie at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting published an 11,000-word profile about our governor titled “The Book On Paul LePage: The ‘biggest, baddest person around’ crashes Augusta’s ‘nicey-nicey’ club.”
Despite the tortured title, Christie’s piece is an informative, comprehensive and fair look into what motivates LePage, infuriates his opponents and frustrates his supporters. It confirms what I have always known about LePage: He is a results-focused leader with very little concern for political fallout or unnecessary niceties.
Love him, hate him or want more from him, not much is going to change. So it was not much of a surprise that LePage was again confronted with an unauthorized recording in the hands of progressive activist and wonky wunderkind Mike Tipping. Over several blog posts in the Bangor Daily News, Tipping, like a cat playing with its prey, has been revealing taped excerpts from LePage’s talk to the Informed Women’s Network. Tipping’s posts come complete with detailed analysis suggesting LePage has sinister intentions or a loose grip on the facts.
I would offer that Tipping has forgotten more about politics and elections than I will ever know, if I thought Tipping had actually forgotten anything. That compliment aside, these LePage uncensored posts are really much ado about not a whole lot.
When I worked for LePage, it never bothered me when he got some of the details wrong in his comments because he is so effective at connecting with voters on key themes and at making his intent known.
It turns out, for example, 47-percent of able-bodied Mainers are not out of work as LePage suggested. Nevertheless, much of the electorate believes too many Mainers are not being productive enough with their time.
These voters know that Paul LePage cannot stand the culture of dependency that persists in Maine. Anytime LePage gets to talk about reforming welfare and creating jobs, it is a win in my yet-to-be-written book.
I was also not surprised to see LePage continue to provide sincere and compassionate leadership on the issue of domestic violence last week. Calling it “the most heinous of all crimes in society,” LePage helped kick off a basketball tournament raising money for children who have lost parents to domestic violence.
A lot about LePage gets overlooked because of his own reluctance to shine the spotlight on the work he does to help individual constituents or worthy causes. I have always respected his desire to do worthy work without trying to score political points.
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Democrat Shenna Bellows officially launched her expected campaign for the U.S. Senate last week. A bright and accomplished leader at the Maine American Civil Liberties Union, Bellows is best known for helping to legalize gay marriage in Maine and for fighting to protect Mainers from infringements on our cellphone privacy and drone surveillance.
Bellows will run an informative and impassioned campaign for the Senate against Susan Collins, but she will come up well short of victory when the ballots are cast. While well known and respected by political insiders, Bellows will find it extremely hard to build the name recognition and traction it takes to compete against Collins with the broader electorate.
It is very hard to make the leap from newcomer to contender in Maine politics. Especially so in campaigns when the electorate is so satisfied with the service of the incumbent. Collins is a highly effective legislator and one of the few truly pragmatic leaders who can be counted on to broker solutions in Washington.
Mainers value Collins’ approach and will send her to the Senate for another six years.
That is not to say Bellows is on a pointless quest. A spirited and respectful, yet ultimately unsuccessful, campaign is often the best way to position oneself for future electoral success. Both Collins and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree lost campaigns for high office before they won.
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I also figured it would not be long before the challengers in the 2014 race for the Blaine House started targeting each other. Eager to avoid another third-place finish and another four years of LePage leadership, establishment Democrats are lining up solidly behind Congressman Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor.
Eliot Cutler must find or create factions among center-left constituencies if he hopes to be a contender again in the campaign for Maine’s highest office. Reproductive rights are issues where Michaud’s record does not align with the party’s traditional position and it is savvy for Cutler’s campaign to raise questions before support solidifies behind Michaud.
I expect much more to come.
Dan Demeritt is a Republican political consultant and public relations specialist. He is a former campaign aide and communications director for Gov. Paul LePage. He can be contacted at: email@example.com Twitter: @demerittda