State of Maine: Cabinet, committees take shape

Former Maine Congressman Bruce Poliquin finally threw in the towel, abandoning his effort to reverse the outcome of the November election for Maine’s Second District. Having received no encouragement from the courts as he pressed his objections, he announced the end of his legal challenges last week.

There is no doubt the congressman was sincere in his belief that ranked choice voting was a “confusing and unfair chapter of voting history.” However, the facts did not bear this out, the courts were not sympathetic and he finally decided it was in the “best interest of my constituents” to concede the race. Amen.

His successor, Democrat Jared Golden, is already in the thick of the logistics of setting up an office in D.C. As promised, Golden voted against Nancy Pelosi in a closed-door session to reclaim her post as House Speaker, a move which may affect his future in D.C. since she appears poised to win the official vote.

He is now scrounging for office space from a starting position at the bottom of the seniority ladder. He will need to hire staff, find a place to live and bone up on the issues he will be facing as Maine’s junior congressman.

Back home in Maine, the organizational work of state government in preparing for the new year continues apace.

Governor-elect Janet Mills plowed along in her search for cabinet members, undistracted by the volley of instructions the outgoing governor was sending her way. His window for advice is slowly closing, and he is doing his best to make the most of it.

He wants her to continue his legal action against Mills in her Attorney General role, which would mean suing herself while she is governor. He wants to continue to direct the expansion of Medicaid, threatening to run against Mills in 2022 if she does not do this “sustainably.”

As she continues to name commissioners, it is clear that our first woman governor intends for her cabinet to have a distinctive look. Her transition team is doing a deep talent dive and coming up with — women. Six of her first seven picks? Women. This is a new beginning, alright.

There’s nothing wrong with men. Men are good. But both the administration and the legislature have historically failed to reflect the proportion of women in the state population, and the talent that lies therein. The Mills cabinet is going to be different. There are capable women in Maine, and Mills has set out to find them.

The legislature is also in the formative process. Committee assignments have been made and committee leadership designated. Of course, the majority party keeps all committee chairmanships to itself. That works in the House with its 151 members, but with just 35 senators (21 now in the majority) it means some doubling up.

Many of the chairs named are third- or fourth-term legislators. Some on the Senate side are new but have served terms in the House. Most on the House side have served at least two previous terms.

Some choices defy logic. Senator James Dill has been made chairman of two committees. One is Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; the other is Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Capable though he may be, the logistics of managing two committees simply make this a poor idea.

Ned Claxton will be Senate chair of State and Local Government. He is a physician with no prior legislative experience. Fortunately, he is paired up with Rep. Danny Martin, who served in the House, the Senate, was a state commissioner (IF&W), and served locally in both municipal and county government.

Ben Chipman will be Senate chair of the Taxation Committee and will also serve on the Transportation Committee. Though he is an experienced legislator, no one could do justice to those two assignments.

Hancock County’s Louie Luchini will be Senate chair of Veterans and Legal Affairs. Kim Rosen will return to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, but as a member of the minority she will no longer hold the chair.

Bar Harbor’s Brian Hubbell will continue to serve on the Appropriations committee. He is also assigned to Veterans and Legal Affairs. There is no more capable and dedicated legislator than Hubbell, but Appropriations is a killer assignment that demands 100 percent of a legislator’s time and attention. His second committee will necessarily get short shrift.

Genevieve McDonald (Stonington), Billy Bob Faulkingham (Winter Harbor), and Sherm Hutchins (Penobscot) will all serve on the Marine Resources Committee. Sarah Pebworth (Blue Hill) will be on State and Local Government, Richard Campbell (Orrington) will be on Environment and Natural Resources, Nicole Grohoski (Ellsworth) will be on Energy, Utilities and Technology and Larry Lockman will be on Labor and Housing.

Janet Mills’ inauguration was held Jan. 2; legislators were scheduled to convene on the same day.

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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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