All politics, all the time

Maine’s three gubernatorial candidates were together at last, but briefly. An energy forum planned for the University of Southern Maine campus came off the rails when Governor Paul LePage, discovering the presence of his opponents, never got farther than the parking lot.

He was promised a forum for his energy policies, not a gabfest with the other candidates, said the governor. Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud were bemused but took the governor’s vanishing act in stride.

It is one thing to refuse to debate until it is too late to help voters make their choices. It is another to flee the scene in the face of the opposition. This does not inspire confidence in the governor’s ability to cope with the unexpected.

Cutler was sitting quietly on the stage, minding his own business, when the whole debacle turned into a French farce. Shepherded off the stage and informed of the new developments, he later told MPBN news that the governor “spent quite some time sitting in the garage in his vehicle, and then left. That is everything I know.”

Congressman Michaud seized the opportunity to claim that the governor had decamped because he had no energy policy, and therefore could not participate in an event meant to explore the candidates’ positions.

Raise your hand if you would like to know what was going on in that car in the parking garage. Were the governor’s people calling to advise? Was the governor calling in back-up? Was he doing car yoga to restore his equilibrium?

Whatever the case, this did not bode well for the governor’s hopes of expanding his base.

Add to this the secret recording of state Senate candidate Geoff Gratwick expressing his admiration for Eliot Cutler and describing party bestie Mike Michaud as “not a brain guy” and the infiltration of a conference call among liberal organizations by a Republican operative, and you have a full-on case of the crazies on the campaign trail.

Candidate fundraisers are treading a fine line between oozing confidence in the talents and merits of their candidates and at the same time describing their campaigns as on the brink of disaster – a brink from which only your donation, today, can rescue them. How many weeks until the election? Too many.

Safe after his near-brush with the electorate, Gov. LePage headed to Portland for what was billed as a major announcement. His administration, he revealed, had purchased $50,000 of advertising on a NASCAR race vehicle. Whoa – game changer!

The investment will send a race car zooming around the track bearing Maine’s name and iconic images such as a moose, lobster and lighthouse, as well as the governor’s favorite promotion slogan, “Maine Is Open For Business.” This, in theory, will cause the Blaine House phone to ring off the hook as captains of industry, NASCAR fans all, beg for the opportunity to move their operations to this forward thinking, race-car advertising state.

The National Guard reportedly made a similar NASCAR investment hoping it would serve as a recruiting tool. They pulled the plug when it did not turn up a single recruit. If Maine’s venture doesn’t work out, maybe the governor could use the car to speed away from the next threat of coming face to face with Eliot Cutler and Mike Michaud.

Whatever you do, governor, don’t paint the lobster, moose and blueberries on the side of the Nova Star ferry. The carrier that re-introduced service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia got off to a less than stellar start, ending the season at something like fifty percent of their hoped-for ridership.

More than 600 ticket-holders were disappointed when the Nova Star pulled the plug on its season early to cut its losses. A cool $21 million in funds provided by the Canadian government to support the first seven years of the service were fully expended in year one. The big loser here is the town of Yarmouth, a nice enough place, but which, except for the ferry, is somewhat off the beaten path.

The tradition of the ferry link to Nova Scotia is still missed in Bar Harbor, the former port of call. In its day, the ferry carried not only passengers, but significant truck traffic, circumventing the long trek through New Brunswick and down across Maine and landing commercial vehicles an hour from Bangor and I-95.

Maybe Gov. LePage could take a lesson from the recent trip of two U.S. senators to a remote, tiny island in the South Pacific to demonstrate their ability to work as a team when the chips are down. This is the aptly named Senator Jeff Flake’s third reality trip to survivor-ville. This time, the Republican Flake was accompanied by a Democratic senator in order to demonstrate just how well partisans can work together when they need to. Yeah, on a desert island, maybe. Do not try this trick in Washington.

The governor decried the recent dust-up as all politics and no policy. That’s about right. There will be nothing but politics from now until November.

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.