Candidate cabinets on everyone’s minds

Five weeks away from Election Day, the decibel level is going up, but there are still many undecided voters. Governor Paul LePage and Congressman Mike Michaud are joined at the hip, poll-wise, each with about a third of voters polled in their camps.

Eliot Cutler is showing movement, chipping into the undecided voters and lifting his poll numbers. His fundraising has picked up, and a round of Republican business owners just made public endorsements of his candidacy. Governor LePage’s shunning of candidate events and the weird and wacky saga of the Michaud video may solidify the growing sense that Mr. Cutler is the only grown-up in the room.

While the attention is on the candidates themselves, another intriguing consideration in this gubernatorial race is just who would staff a Cutler or a Michaud administration. It would be a political risk for the gubernatorial candidates to confess that they are developing a short list for their cabinets or personal staff, but they are no doubt thinking about it.

A LePage administration would be a known quantity. Some of his staff would surely stay on, while others, as happens in any administration, would now have a fixed horizon of four more years. If that does not put them to retirement age, resumes would begin to circulate.

What about a Michaud administration? There would be a clean sweep of the cabinet, and no doubt the lines are already forming of those who would like to inherit the positions. Will a Governor Michaud turn to the usual suspects, installing commissioners from the ranks of loyal supporters or long-time allies? John Martin, we’re looking at you.

Will a Michaud administration pluck newly-elected legislators out of the House and Senate to staff offices? And then what happens to those empty seats? There would have to be a new election, right after the election.

An early rumor based on a Michaud win mentions Ted Koffman, former state representative from Bar Harbor and current candidate for state Senate, as a likely candidate for Commissioner of Environmental Protection. Having made environmental issues his complete focus in his life as well as in his previous legislative service, this is by no means a stretch.

Mr. Koffman himself had not heard the rumor and dismissed the possibility. He called his campaign “the toughest job interview you could ever go through,” and said, “I’m not going through this to get to be a commissioner.” Asked point blank if he would decline the opportunity if offered, Mr. Koffman said, “I imagine that would be the case.”

How about a Cutler administration? Governor Cutler, like Governor Angus King, would be at liberty to reach for the best and brightest to compose his administration, unbeholden to the cast of thousands a party governor has beating a path to his door.

The King administration had a distinguished cabinet and a brilliant staff of bright, hard-working and honest individuals. Governor Cutler could have the same, picked from the ranks of the bipartisan and the non-partisan. A partisan governor would not have that luxury.

Evidence of the insularity of the parties, if further evidence is necessary, are the published letters forthcoming from out-of-district sources in support of legislative candidates. Legislative districts in Maine are small – really small. No disrespect intended, but do we really need the likes of Sherry Huber of Falmouth telling Hancock County voters who we should elect as our local legislator?

Similarly, when party leadership sings the praises of a legislative candidate, unless it was of a member of the opposite party (it never is), can it possibly be any more than an effort to swell their party ranks? Their enthusiasm for their party members must be taken with a grain, nay, an entire shaker of salt.

Finally, is this a great state or what? The latest entry for a Campaign Outrage award goes to the Republicans, over a video featuring Mike Michaud that, in its closing musical flourish, includes a crudity (not a crudité) directed at Senator Susan Collins.

The video was produced outside the Michaud campaign, but the campaign, according to hyperventilating Republicans, knew about it, authorized it, loved loved loved it and put it up on the campaign website. Mostly, it showed an affectionate Congressman Michaud, warmly (but not too warmly) engaging with older ladies. Mr. Michaud’s comfort level with this particular demographic puts him head and shoulders above most members of Congress.

The trouble with the video was the use of the word “brain,” specifically as in “giving brain.” Seems that phrase is a crass expression of a sexual act, in this case, we must presume, grossly misapplied to Senator Susan Collins. The only brain Senator Collins has been known to give is the one that has made her one of the most influential and respected members of the U.S. Senate.

The other “giving brain?” Who knew? “Brain drain,” yeah, we know about that. “Brain cramp,” check. “Giving brain?” Whaaa? We are a kinder, gentler state. Forget “Open for Business!” That sign greeting travelers on the turnpike should read: “Maine. Not familiar with brain.”


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.