Maine voters: Monkeys in the political middle

In a world full of uncertainty and intermittent terror, last week’s glorious stretch of blue sky and warm air was a gift. But then, just when you think life can’t get any better, somebody says “debate.”

Governor Paul LePage has clarified his position once again, announcing Sunday that he would participate in five gubernatorial debates. He is evolving on the subject, having said he wouldn’t debate, and then that he would, and then that he would attend every debate, but from the safety of the audience. “I will not get on a stage with a liar,” he snarled last week, said liar apparently meaning Congressman Mike Michaud.

The “lie” in question had to do with the Michaud campaign claiming the Governor had referred to Social Security as welfare. Judge for yourself. A press release from his office on June 25, 2014, objected to the inclusion of “Personal Current Transfer Receipts” in personal income growth data. “It doesn’t matter what liberals call these payments, it is welfare, pure and simple,” said the Governor. The transfer payments include Social Security and Medicare. He evolved on that matter, too, issuing a follow-up statement that he really didn’t intend for Social Security to be defined as “welfare.”

Congressman Michaud also has evolved on the debate question, now saying that he will show up for the scheduled debates even if the Governor doesn’t. Eliot Cutler is sticking with his original position: Anywhere, any time, anybody.

The debate debate may be a key to the governing style of each candidate, should he win. Would Governor LePage refuse to show up at the Statehouse if there were any Democrats (or other liars) in the building? Would Mike Michaud work only on the days there was perfect attendance in the Legislature? Might Eliot Cutler be the one beavering away in his second floor office no matter what else was going on around him?

Governor LePage might consider participating in the debates with a performance similar to this year’s successful Miss America competitor. According to a news report, the winner clinched her title by singing the song “Happy” and accompanying herself “by tapping a red plastic cup.”

This would confound the Governor’s enemies and delight his fans. He could claim to have participated in the debates without having to answer any questions. He could end up with the crown. We would respectfully request he skip the swimsuit portion.

How about that University of Maine System Board of Trustees? The board shifted its recent meeting, with an agenda that proposed eliminating three academic programs at the University of Southern Maine, from Portland to Fort Kent for “logistic and travel issues.” Ha! Funny!

Then there was the series of breaking political bulletins from Democrat Emily Cain’s 2nd Congressional District campaign, revealing the disturbing news that Republicans were out to win the 2nd CD seat. Say it isn’t so!

Sadly, these delicious moments were overwhelmed by more depressing stories. The campaigns are awash in money, and most of it is from out of state. The voters are now monkeys in the political middle. The ball is flying back and forth over our heads, and jump though we might we will not get a hand on it.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has purchased $1.5 million for TV ads to promote the candidacy of Bruce Poliquin for the 2nd Congressional District. Again: $1.5 million. That is just partial funding for one race, to be spent in four weeks. The aggregate spending for top-of-the-ticket races in Maine will be heart-stopping.

Second only to the money being sprayed into this election through a five-inch hose are the political distortions or downright untruths being circulated about the candidates. Like the headline blaming Mike Michaud for a scurrilous comment about Sen. Susan Collins, even though Mr. Michaud had nothing to do with it. Rick Bennett, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, apologized to Mr. Michaud for that one.

Then there was the mailer from the Maine Democratic Party castigating Hancock County Senator Brian Langley for throwing our children under the toxic chemicals bus by voting against the Kids Safe Product Act. The Democrats failed to note that Sen. Langley had twice voted in favor of previous bills banning the use of BPA in children’s products.

Sen. Langley, kind-hearted and hard-working in equal measures, is the kind of public servant we stand to lose if nothing is done to stop the downward spiral of electioneering. Perhaps career politicians can slough off these misleading and mean-spirited campaign ads, but it is not the leadership-track elected officials we should be worried about.

It is our representatives who, like Sen. Langley, labor in the trenches, bring valuable life experience (in his case decades as a teacher and business owner) and utter dedication to a job to which they devote countless hours at the expense of their work and personal lives, and who may decide it is simply not worth the exposure to these unfair attacks.

The air is thick with demands for apologies from both sides, in almost every race. Meanwhile, the public, subject to this barrage of claims and counterclaims, has absolutely no idea who to believe. No wonder voter turnout is so low. Your local candidates are out and about. Throw away all political advertisements, go meet them, and make up your own minds.

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.