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Maine political news, analysis and commentary
Thursday, June 17th, 2010, 11:28 am

Stephen King supports Mitchell for governor

William P. Davis
An ad featuring Stephen King from a 1970 edition of The Maine Campus.

Analysis of yesterday’s Maine statewide governor’s race extravaganza coming up, but first the latest campaign endorsement: The AP reports that bestselling author and spooky Bangor native Stephen King endorsed Libby Mitchell for governor while at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Boston.

King has previously spoken on behalf of MoveOn.org and backed Barack Obama for president in 2008 — the same year he raised the ire of some for implying children should learn to read so they don’t have to join the military.

Maybe not the most heavy-hitting political endorsement ever, but King is a local hero in Bangor, thanks in no small part to the boatloads of dollars in philanthropic funds that moves through Bangor thanks to the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.

Mario Carmine Moretto is editor of Politicator and a founding editor of the Observer.



Thursday, June 17th, 2010, 5:24 am

GOP candidates stand firm behind LePage — for the most part

William P. Davis | Maine Observer
Isaac Libby, 4, of New Gloucester, shows his support Wednesday for Republican candidate for governor Paul LePage at the GOP unity rally in Waterville.

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William P. Davis | Maine Observer
Paul LePage, center, joins hands with Les Otten and the other candidates who competed for the Republican nomination for governor at a unity rally in Waterville on Wednesday.
William P. Davis | Maine Observer
Republican candidate for governor Paul LePage shares a laugh Wednesday, June 26, after a unity rally in Waterville.

WATERVILLE — Paul LePage and the six Republicans he defeated in the June 8 primary gathered Wednesday for a show of unity on the steps of City Hall, with each of the former candidates pledging their support for the mayor of Waterville.

But some endorsements rang louder than others. State Sen. Peter Mills, who up to today hadn’t publicly announced his support for LePage, paused and seemed to reconsider during his turn at the lectern.

“My support for this nominee, is,” Mills started out slowly before pausing for six seconds and pronouncing, “I need to see.”

In a long-ranging speech that stretched longer than LePage’s, Mills said Republicans must avoid social issues — which Mills himself is more moderate on — and focus on governing.

Mills said that when Republicans were in the majority they failed to deliver. “We tried to rule, we tried to govern, but we got into some squabbles we didn’t need to, we divided along lines where we didn’t need to divide. And we failed to deliver to Maine people a clear conception of the affirmative, positive things we need to do, we wanted to do, in order to make this state a better place,” Mills said. “And we lost the next election.”

“It is important,” Mills continued, “that we as a party begin to set aside some of the social issues that divide us — some of the stuff that we get into squabbles about within the party — and begin to focus on business … and specifically on the business of managing and running state government. It is a mess.”

LePage emphasized business and governing during his speech at the rally and to reporters at a news conference after the event.

“I’ll take a word from Calvin Coolidge: The business in Maine is going to be business come November,” LePage said during the event.

“This election and this campaign is going to be about putting Maine in the right direction,” he said, citing creating jobs, lowering taxes and reforming Maine’s regulatory environment as keys to success.

LePage, who describes himself as pro-life  supporter of traditional marriage, has been attacked by some who say he wants to teach creationism in schools. He told reporters Wednesday that social issues can not rise to the forefront of the campaign.

“If we concentrate on social issues as the No. 1 issue this fall, the state of Maine is doomed,” LePage said. “We have to concentrate on jobs, fiscal responsibility, accountability, and have common sense regulations in the state of Maine. And that’s what it’s all about. You want to talk about something else you’re going to have politics as usual. If you want politics as usual, I’m not your guy. If you want the state to prosper, I’m your guy.”

After the rally, Mills said LePage had broad, grassroots support — as evidenced by his 2-1 win over the second-place candidate, Les Otten — and estimated that tens of thousands of independents had enrolled at the polls on Election Day to vote for LePage. The official numbers won’t be known until the secretary of state releases them sometime in the next two weeks.

But, Mills said, LePage must avoid being characterized by social issues, or he would meet the same fate of the 2006 Republican nominee for governor.

“I think that Democrats were able to define Chandler Woodcock in an adverse way during the summer months,” Mills said. “And I think it behooves Paul to come out, by taking an affirmative stance on some positive issues that resonate with independent, moderate voters and the Democrats.”

Paula Sutton, of Warren, who attended the rally, said she was an independent voter until she enrolled as a Republican so she could vote for LePage in the primary.

“I believe in him because he’s not a lawyer, he has political experience and he has small business experience,” Sutton said.

Asked about LePage’s stance on social issues, Sutton said she didn’t think it would be an issue.

“I don’t think that’s one of the things we’re concerned about,” Sutton said. “We’re concerned about taxes, spending too much money. The social issues, he’s not going to press a button and make abortion illegal or any of the social issues people might disagree on.”

William P. Davis is editor of MaineMedia and a founding editor of the Observer.



Thursday, June 17th, 2010, 1:08 am

Democrats rally behind Mitchell

D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
(From left) Democrats Steve Rowe, Libby Mitchell, Rosa Scarcelli and John Richardson gathered Wednesday in a show of party unity at a spaghetti dinner in South Portland. Mitchell won the June 8 primary with 35 percent of the vote.

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D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
Former Democratic candidate for Governor Rosa Scarcelli, right, speaks with Governor John Baldacci at Wednesday's Democratic Unity Dinner.
D.S. MacLeod | Maine Observer
Steve Rowe and his wife Amanda with Libby Mitchell (center) at Wednesday's Democratic Unity Dinner in South Portland.

SOUTH PORTLAND — Maine Senate President Libby Mitchell and three of her former opponents in the Democratic primary for governor gathered Wednesday in a show of party unity at a spaghetti supper attended by Maine Governor John Baldacci and other Maine Democrats.

Rosa Scarcelli, Steven Rowe and John Richardson pledged their support for Mitchell. Rowe and Scarcelli were both beaten in the June 8 primary by Mitchell, who got 35 percent of the vote. Richardson dropped out of the race in April following the admission that three of his campaign staffers had not followed proper Clean Election guidelines when collecting $5 donations.

Mitchell’s other former Democratic challenger, Pat McGowan, did not attend the dinner due to illness, State Sen. Larry Bliss said. McGowan also has pledged his support of Mitchell.

Both Rowe and Mitchell said the Democrats took “the high road” during the heated primary race, making it easy for all of them to unite now.

“We’re in this together,” Mitchell, 69, of Vassalboro, said outside the event hall. “The campaign was so respectful; it’s so easy to transition. We’re very excited to come together as Democrats.”

Rowe said he would support Mitchell in whatever way he could, though he said it was too early in the campaign to know what that entailed.

“We’ll all be working on her campaign this fall. It was easy for us to come together,” he said. “We all spoke about the democratic values” during the primary race.

In contrast to Mitchell, who ran on her 36 years of experience in the Maine Legislature, Scarcelli, 40, ran on an outsider platform as the only candidate who had never served in public office. She said Mitchell hoped to tap into that energy in the general election Nov. 2.

“We brought in a lot of people that have not been engaged in politics before,” Scarcelli said. “Libby has made it clear that she wants to learn from me and she wants to connect to the people I connected to. The Democratic party needs to be the place where we welcome people back home.”

Former President Bill Clinton has also pledged his support, Mitchell said.

“I have spoken with him after the campaign,” said Mitchell. “He did endorse my campaign with a robocall as well as an endorsement letter.”

Baldacci lauded Mitchell’s time as Senate president and said she is adept in reaching consensus across party lines.

“There are a lot of people who say that a Democrat can’t succeed another Democrat,” he said. “I think every time they say something to a Maine person that something can’t be done, they prove that it can be done. That’s the way it is in Maine and that’s the way it’s going to be in this election.”

If elected, Mitchell would be Maine’s first female governor.

D.S. MacLeod is editor of The Haul and a founding editor of the Observer.



Monday, June 14th, 2010, 3:36 pm

Big news


Hello faithful readers,

It is my pleasure to alert you all of something that’s been in the works for a while now. Daniel MacLeod of The Free Press, USM’s student newspaper; William P. Davis formerly of The Maine Campus and I have soft-launched Maine Observer, an online newspaper for the great state of Maine.

The idea first came a few months ago, when Dan and I really got started with our own blogs. We thought we could grow stronger by combining efforts. Not long after, Will was brought on as our de facto Web guy.

The Observer is not fully launched yet, but we have begun posting to our first three columns.

  • Journalator will continue to offer news, commentary and analysis of Maine politics.
  • The Haul is a column on the economics of Maine and the lives of Maine’s working people.
  • MediaME will provide news and commentary on media and journalism.

The site is still a work in progress, so bear with us as we tweak our content and packaging to best service our readers. The Observer is currently seeking contributors and an Arts and Entertainment editor. To get involved or for more information, e-mail info@maineobserver.net.

Mario Carmine Moretto is editor of Politicator and a founding editor of the Observer.



Wednesday, June 9th, 2010, 2:58 am

LePage? Apparently.


The results of last night’s Republican primary were apparent as soon as the first returns started coming in — LePage was up from the start and never slipped into second place. He won Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn and Augusta, which was somewhat surprising but not wholly, but it was when he won Portland that everyone — including Peter Mills, who many considered a strong contender in the GOP race — agreed that LePage had the nomination locked up.

The national media doesn’t seem to have picked up the scent yet, but Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, placed the outcome squarely on the shoulders of the tea party.

“What I had kinda been saying to people all along is that what was going to be key on the Republican side, in my view, was how big the tea party movement in Maine was going to be,” Brewer told me Wednesday. “I think what we saw yesterday in Maine was the tea party movement was a relatively good size.”

He linked, also, the overwhelming passage of Question 1 to LePage’s victory.

LePage has experience competing in a liberal arena. Waterville, where LePage has served as mayor since 2003, is a heavily Democratic town — all but one councilmen is a Democrat. According to Sandy Maisel, a professor in the Government Department at Colby College in Waterville, LePage’s victories in Waterville and last night are largely due to one factor:

“He’s a very personable guy, and Waterville’s a small town — lot’s of people know him,” Maisel said.

Others back Maisel up on this. One TV commentator last night — I wasn’t paying attention who — remarked — perhaps jokingly — that LePage’s victory was because he invested in campaign buttons, rather than stickers. A few people I’ve talked to today have said they were impressed by LePage’s perhaps less traditional but also less expensive advertising form of choice: radio.

But, Maisel said, LePage hasn’t shown himself to be a prolific fundraiser. My boss at the Kennebec Journal, Tony Ronzio, fired off a tweet this morning that reflected the huge money disparity in the race: “By my hasty count, Bruce Poliquin spent $168 for every vote he received last night. Otten $145. Lepage? $3.50.” Poliquin and Otten were both largely self-financed, but nonetheless LePage was still near the bottom of the barrel as far as financing goes.

Maisel and Brewer both said independent candidate Eliot Cutler may have a strong chance to shine in November.

“He has clearly got an impressive resume, he has by all accounts got plenty of resources to spend on this race, he has already got a fair amount of support out there,” Brewer said.

Maisel said Cutler might have more potential to steal votes from LePage than Democratic nominee Elizabeth Mitchell, saying, “It seems to me that the Mills, Abbott, Otten people have to find a place to go.”

LePage, the Morning Sentinel reports, is taking a breather today while he and everyone else tries to figure out what just happened, and what’s going to happen next.

William P. Davis is editor of MaineMedia and a founding editor of the Observer.



Monday, June 7th, 2010, 5:45 pm

A few thoughts as we head into the Primaries


Updated with a few unsurprising, but nonetheless interesting, factoids.

It will be interesting to see the results of tomorrow’s primaries in Maine, as neither party seems to have a breakout candidate.

Susan Cover posted some interesting numbers in today’s Kennebec Journal.

As of June 1, independents made up the largest voting bloc among Maine registered voters, with 385,388. Democrats are next with 329,610. Republicans have 270,601 and Green Independents 34,398.

The deadline to switch parties has passed, and, according to the state, some voters took the opportunity to make a change at some point this year.

There are many categories, but four columns stand out:

  • 1,200 people went from unenrolled to Republican.
  • 658 people went from unenrolled to Democrat.
  • 956 people went from Democrat to Republican.
  • 346 people went from Republican to Democrat.

The number of people who switched parties may seem small, but the trends might be emblematic of a larger trend. Twice as many independents enrolled as Republicans than as Democrats, and nearly three times as many Democrats switched to the Republican Party than vice versa.

You can compare the party totals to June of 2008, which saw 299,796 Democrats, 253,217 Republicans and 333,303 independents (not Green Independents, mind you, that’d be a coup), and June of 2007, which saw 291,228 Democrats, 259,566 Republicans and 352,780 independents. (You can see breakdowns and more on the secretary of state’s website.)

Furthermore, the secretary of state’s office provided me with these numbers from the first five months of 2008:

  • 859 people went from unenrolled to Republican.
  • 6,560 people went from unenrolled to Democrat.
  • 259 people went from Democrat to Republican.
  • 1,153 people went from Republican to Democrat.

Obviously a huge reversal.

Here these numbers are in an easy-to-digest graph format:

You can see all the numbers in a spreadsheet here.

If the national trend is to buck candidates with experience (see Arlen Specter, Rand Paul), that is not the case in the Democratic Primary, it seems. A poll by Pan Atlantic SMS (which predicted November’s elections not-so-much, by the way) has Libby Mitchell, president of Maine Senate, and Steve Rowe, a former Maine attorney general and legislator, leading Rosa Scarcelli, who has no public office experience and has billed herself as an outsider, by a fairly healthy margin.

None of the Republicans have a breadth of experience. Waterville Mayor Paul LePage is one of the few candidates who isn’t running purely on a business-centric platform, but he is a distant second to Otten, according to that same Pan Atlantic poll. LePage also seems to be locked in a pretty tight embrace with the tea partiers, at least moreso than any other candidate. Peter Mills, whose political experience as a Maine state senator is second only in the GOP field to Steve Abbott, who served as chief of staff for Sen. Susan Collins, insists, with a self-commissioned poll in hand, that he’s on top, but in reality his chances look dubious. Abbott’s chances look even worse.

Justin Russell has an interesting analysis of each candidate’s community engagement via Twitter (hat tip to Pattie Barry for the link). Scarcelli seems to lead the pack both in total tweets and number of responses to followers.

William P. Davis is editor of MaineMedia and a founding editor of the Observer.



Tuesday, May 25th, 2010, 9:15 am

Scarcelli and Franco-Mainers


According to the 2005 American Community Survey,  4.47 percent of Maine’s population speaks French. In Louisiana, that number is only 3.19 percent, making Maine the most French-speaking state per capita in the country.

In an effort to target Franco-American voters, Rosa Scarcelli is airing radio ads in French out of WEZR in Lewiston, according to an AP wire story from the Bangor Daily News.

This is at least the second attempt from Rosa to reach out to Franco-Mainers, after her campaign pushed out this video in early May. The video features a Franco-Mainer discussing the plight of Francos in Maine and voicing her support for Scarcelli. She even throws in a little French for good measure, but I’m not sure the video does a great job explaining why Franco-Mainers should support Rosa.

Mario Carmine Moretto is editor of Politicator and a founding editor of the Observer.



Monday, May 24th, 2010, 12:03 pm

Chat archives with gubernatorial candidates


Sorry for my lack of posting over the last few days, folks. But here’s something great, courtesy of the Kennebec Journal: You can see the archived gubernatorial chats that have already been conducted and keep up with the ones coming soon. Click here.

I haven’t got to read them all yet, but kudos to the KJ for finding new, creative ways to bring readers in and involve them in the gubernatorial race (and the news). The KJ is keeping up with the chats, and will finish all the candidates in the coming week. starting with Les Otten today, Bruce Policquin tomorrow and independent candidate Elliot Cutler on Wednesday.

Mario Carmine Moretto is editor of Politicator and a founding editor of the Observer.



Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, 12:23 pm

Jacobson still pushing outsider businessman image


Back in Maine, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Matt Jacobson has issued a press release commenting on “the anti-incumbent votes in the Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas U.S. Senate races.”

“These elections are a repudiation of Washington-style political tactics,” Jacobson added. “Voters are tired of special interests and big business controlling the political agenda.  At the national and state levels, voters are rejecting policies such as the federal stimulus bill that has added trillions to our national debt or buying a private railroad in Maine that has already been bailed out twice before.  I reject those policies as well.”

Jacobson tried, again, to cement his position as the pro-business harbinger of jobs. He also included what could be a subtle jab at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with that line about “big business,” but that’s just speculation. While throwing in a little outsider rhetoric:

“The voters are speaking: it’s time for real solutions that will fix Maine’s ongoing problems with lower taxes, reduced government spending, and an unwavering emphasis on private sector job growth.  I’m not an insider, but I’ve run companies and I’ve brought jobs to Maine. I know how to lead and I know how to create jobs. A Jacobson administration will lead our state through the necessary tough decisions that will make Maine a great place to live and work.”

Like I said, the guy really, really wants to be seen as the Republican’s “jobs and business” candidate, but he knows he’s got a tough row to hoe. Earlier this week, the campaign sent out an e-mail calling for donations, saying that half of Republicans in Maine don’t know who they’re voting for yet. Jacobson’s cash contributions total at just over $118K, according to the campaigns most recent filings with the Maine Commission on Government Ethics and Election Practices. After taking into account money owed, Jacobson had just over $30K in hand at the report’s filing on April 27.

Mario Carmine Moretto is editor of Politicator and a founding editor of the Observer.



Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, 12:01 pm

Post-primaries wrap-up


I’ve got to ask, Did anybody really think Specter could win a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania? If it’s true that Americans are more partisan and divided now than in the recent past, Democrats would never choose a candidate who has been a party member for only one year — especially when Joe Sestak did such an awesome job of  linking Specter to Republicans (not that it’s hard to do). I don’t think so, Arlen.

Here’s a quick look at some of what has hit the Web so far.

  • Over at TPMCafe.com, Robert Reich says the results are “a swing against the establishment” caused by middle class economic angst.
  • Jonathan Martin and Charles Mahtesian at Politico say the victory of Democrat Mark Crist over Republican Tim Burns in Pennsylvania’s special election for the house seat inDistrict 12 (which, by the way, voted for John McCain in 2008), contradicted the evidence pointing to Republican House gains in the fall.
  • Politico also ran a story titled “No surprises in Oregon,” which seems to be everybody’s take on primaries there — victory for incumbent Sen. Ron Wyden (D) and Jim Huffman (R), and Former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) and former professional basketball player Chris Dudley(R).

Full results of yesterday’s primaries, courtesy of the Associate Press:

Kentucky race for Senate seat:

Tea party-backed candidate Rand Paul captured GOP nomination, defeating GOP establishment candidate and Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Attorney General Jack Conway won Senate Democratic nomination, beating Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.

Kentucky races for House seats:

Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Todd Lally won Louisville’s 3rd District Republican race.

Jim Holbert won the state’s lone contested Democratic primary for the right to face Republican Hal Rogers, who represents eastern Kentucky’s 5th District.

Attorney and college teacher Andy Barr won Lexington’s 6th District GOP race.

___

Pennsylvania race for Senate seat:

Rep. Joe Sestak took Democratic Senate nomination, ousting five-term veteran Sen. Arlen Specter.

Former Rep. Pat Toomey won Republican Senate nomination.

Pennsylvania races for House seats:

Democrat Mark Critz, an aide to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha, defeated Republican businessman Tim Burns in a special election to serve the remaining months in Murtha’s term.

Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper won Democratic primary over challenger Mel Marin.

Pennsylvania governor:

Attorney General Tom Corbett captured Republican nomination.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato won Democratic nomination.

___

Arkansas race for Senate seat:

Sen. Blanche Lincoln failed to win the majority of votes in the Democratic primary. Lincoln is headed toward a June 8 runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for her party’s nomination.

Rep. John Boozman won Republican nomination for Senate.

Arkansas races for House seats:

Rick Crawford was voted the GOP nominee in Arkansas’ 1st Congressional District for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Marion Berry.

Former White House aide Tim Griffin defeated Scott Wallace to claim the Republican nomination for Arkansas’ 2nd District congressional seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder.

___

Oregon race for Senate seat:

Sen. Ron Wyden won Democratic nomination to seek a third full term.

Law professor Jim Huffman won Republican Senate nomination.

Oregon governor’s race:

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber won Democratic nomination.

Former professional basketball player Chris Dudley won the Republican nomination, defeating Allen Alley.

Mario Carmine Moretto is editor of Politicator and a founding editor of the Observer.