Candidates flock to races

How the mighty have fallen. Heaped with praise for her courageous vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act just weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has been buried under an avalanche of outrage after her vote in favor of the Republican tax reform bill.

Will Senate leadership keep the promises they made to secure Collins’ vote? The consequences of the bill will not become apparent for some time, but if they are anything like the picture painted by nonpartisan budget analysts and a host of experts from across the political spectrum, they will not be pretty. Her next election would be in 2020, and by then, it should be clear whether her vote is vindicated or whether she has made a colossal mistake.

In the meantime, scads of Maine voters are expressing dismay, horror and fury in equal measure. If there is anyone happy with her vote, they have yet to show their face. The provision for automatic cuts in Medicare, farm aid, social services, student loan repayment services and many other federal programs will kick in if Congress does not take action to prevent it.

Known as “paygo” (pay as you go), Republicans are counting on the political pressure that would be brought to bear on Democrats to forestall cuts to popular programs. This already has been done over a dozen times previously, according to reports. The D’s would have to be willing to inflict a world of hurt on voters in order to try to tag Republicans with the cuts.

Legislating around this train wreck would require the kind of cooperation that has almost entirely vanished in Washington. That Collins supported the tax reform bill based on “promises” from Senate President Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan that paygo would be waived seems a bit disingenuous, though she is not the disingenuous sort. We shall see.

Whether the heightened interest in elected office is being generated by this fractious political landscape, or whether it is simply the impending open seat for governor, candidates are flocking into races at an alarming rate. There are enough people running for governor to create Maine’s own version of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The candidate list stands at 24 and counting. Some of them are, to put it politely, not exactly household names. Here are a few of those, most of which might never be heard again except as “other candidates.” Ethan Alcorn, Kenneth Capron, Steven DeAngelis, Patrick Eisenhart, Richard Light and Martin Vachon. You’re welcome.

Six independents (unenrolled in a party) and one “Libertarian” have filed. One of them, state treasurer and former legislator Terry Hayes, has the background for a credible run. Alan Caron has some street cred, the others, not so much. If all are successful in acquiring the necessary signatures, there could be those seven, plus a Green Independent (an official party in Maine), a Democrat and a Republican on the November ballot. That’s 10 candidates in the general election. This way lies madness.

Sure, some of them might not qualify, and some may garner only tiny fractions of the vote, but four or five candidates with low numbers add up to what could be the deciding margin in the contest among the better-known candidates, making the election, in technical terms, a crap shoot. Ranked-choice voting anyone? Maybe the legislature’s failure to take the necessary steps to allow RCV will come back to take a giant bite out of party posteriors. That would be poetic justice.

Support groups will form — for the voters, not the candidates. Daily exercise, plenty of sleep and the judicious application of Allen’s Coffee Brandy should get you through. Most candidates are working to hit their fundraising goals just now, but a few are out and about.

Adam Cote (candidate for governor) has been the most visible in Hancock County, touring businesses and speaking to small groups. There were reported sightings of Jared Golden (candidate for the 2nd Congressional District) and Lucas St. Clair (same). Take advantage of the unique opportunity in Maine to meet the candidates face-to-face. It is terribly informative. We appreciate the efforts of those who are already making themselves available. It may be early days, but it is never too soon to make a good first impression.

The Legislative Council heard appeals last week on bills they had rejected for the upcoming winter session. A total of 99 bills were appealed, 30 were admitted, and 14 more were tabled. That was in addition to the 63 (out of 272 screened) already let in at the initial go-round in October.

Only emergency bills are meant to be admitted in the second regular session of a legislature. Thus, we have emergencies such as electronic toll collection on the Maine Turnpike, reestablishment of the Office of Advocacy and lease of the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site. (Insert sirens here.)

There also are bills carried over by the Legislature from last winter, plus bills from the executive branch, which may be submitted at any time. There will be no lack of legislation to ponder, and surrounding it all will be the drumbeat of campaigns.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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