State of Maine: Charting a positive course



Mills for president! Our Governor has been making a splash on the international scene, giving a much more favorable impression of Maine than some other politicians we could mention. First it was the United Nations, where she addressed the UN General Assembly at a Climate Action Summit; then it was meeting with the prime minister of Finland to sign a forest sector agreement.

The occasion at the UN marked the first time a sitting Maine governor stood before that body. She announced the signing of an executive order committing the state of Maine to carbon neutrality by 2045. The Governor urged the Assembly “to unite to preserve our precious common ground … in uncommon ways for this imperative common purpose.”

It was Governor Mills’ previous involvement with climate change issues that caught the attention of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who invited her to speak. At home, she is addressing climate challenges in multiple ways, from renewable energy standards to heat pump installations to electric vehicle charging availability.

Her theme at the UN was “Maine won’t wait.” She enumerated the activities Maine has undertaken and challenged her international audience to join the effort. She left no doubt of her commitment to climate change mitigation, saying “We believe the irrefutable science.”

Then it was on to Reykjavik, Iceland, for the Arctic Circle Assembly. Maine’s delegation, led by the Governor, included business and academic interests as well as state and local governments. The collaboration with Finland involves mutual efforts at innovation in the wood products industry.

The University of Maine has an impressive track record in this area. Now our state and the country of Finland are looking to maximize economic productivity of the forestry sector, as well as “forest health and sustainability.”

It is uplifting to see Maine presenting itself on the international stage as a leader in global issues and a partner of value in economic efforts. Maine more often makes headlines for our aging demographic, drug use or low college completion rate. We were the seventh worst state for business in 2019. We are the worst drivers in the nation.

Not to dredge up the past, but the man who was tagged by the media as “Maine’s pugnacious governor” with a “confrontational style” was better known for “racially charged comments” and a “profanity-filled message” to a legislator than he was for touting the state’s assets.

Hence, it is a pleasure to see that Maine can step out onto a big stage and look like a place you might want to live. A place that is serious about tackling the big issues like climate change. A place that believes in science. A place that has plans for an economy that finds 21st century applications for its historic natural resources. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

This Governor is showing that you can be tough without being angry, determined without being mean. She is a Mainer through and through, as was Governor Paul LePage, but she is much more likely to focus on the positive than the negative. So far, that looks more likely to lift Maine up.

Speaking of the LePage administration, a well-known figure from those years is making a bid for a seat in Congress. Adrienne Bennett, Governor LePage’s press secretary throughout his two terms in office, has joined the Republican primary election for the 2nd Congressional District. Bennett was a locus of serenity in a chaotic administration, the eye at the center of the LePage hurricane. She enters a primary race against two opponents who are no strangers to conflict.

Her opponents are both former state legislators. One, Eric Brakey, was a two-term state senator and an also-ran in a contest with U.S. Sen. Angus King in 2018. In a news article, Brakey cast Bennett as a “more moderate, more establishment” candidate in the 2nd CD, where voters want “an authentic conservative.”

Authentic conservative Brakey is pushing President Donald Trump’s initiative to “bring our troops home,” an initiative that has finally broken through the wall of Republicans’ unwavering support for their President to be universally panned.

The other recent Republican entry in the 2nd CD race is Dale Crafts, who served four terms in the Maine House. He also touts his conservative bona fides and claims to have the endorsement of Governor LePage. That remains to be sorted; Governor LePage has shown no lack of enthusiasm for Adrienne Bennett since he left office.

Will the leadership style of Governor Janet Mills become a “thing” or is there still an appetite for the no-holds-barred conservatism of Governor LePage and his devotees? So far, Mills has been treading the middle ground. The relative calm in Augusta might inspire the electorate to keep to the more moderate path.

jillgold@gwi.net

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.

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