Friday, December 6, 2013
A lot of numbers have been thrown around in an attempt to analyze Tuesday's special election in Senate District 19: the nearly 50 percent of the vote by victorious Democrat Eloise Vitelli, a newcomer to political office; and the more than $150,000 spent in a race that drew 9,317 votes. Most of the money was spent linking the Republican candidate, Paula Benoit, to Gov. Paul LePage.
Also in the mix is the popularity of LePage, with the most recent citation the 35 percent LePage received in a poll conducted last weekend by Public Policy Polling. That's compared to the 39 percent garnered by Democrat Rep. Mike Michaud, who recently announced his run for the Blaine House.
The number that may matter most, however, is 15, as in the number of months left before polls open and Mainers elect a governor and the 127th Legislature. LePage and legislators still have a lot of work to do, and that time should be spent on the policies that most affect the lives of Mainers, not on the politics of campaigns.
There are important issues left to debate. When the Legislature convenes in January, the future of municipal revenue sharing could again be on the agenda, with the added knowledge of how the cuts in the most recent budget have affected communities.
The failure to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, passed in the Legislature but vetoed by LePage, could be revisited as pressure mounts to confront rising health care costs in Maine.
A bill seeking a change to Maine's school funding formula was carried over until January.
The fervor and financial backing of the Senate District 19 race, following the record spending of the 2012 legislative elections, is likely a preview of the 2014 races, but it shouldn't signal the start of the campaign.