For Maine readers, 2010 was a political year to remember.
Readers of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram overwhelmingly selected the victory of Gov.-elect Paul LePage as the top Maine news story of the year.
The next two stories they chose also involved hard-fought races on the November ballot: the Republican Party capturing control of both chambers of the state Legislature, and voters narrowly approving the state’s first casino with table games. Two other stories in the top 10 also featured politics on a national and local scale.
But there were also stories of triumph and humanitarian efforts. Readers also recognized a South Portland lawyer who found himself in the national spotlight.
(We calculated the list using a weighted point system. Readers who voted online at pressherald.com were allowed to choose 10 stories and rank them. Stories got 10 points for each first-place vote, nine for a second-place vote, and so forth.)
Enjoy our look back at 2010 in Maine.
1. LePage wins: Waterville mayor Paul LePage, who rode a conservative message to victory in a crowded Republican primary last June, wins election as Maine’s governor by narrowly defeating independent Eliot Cutler in a five-way race.
LePage, 62, ran as a blunt critic of big government and big spending, and was widely expected to ride the national pro-Republican wave into the Blaine House.
He grew up in Lewiston’s “Little Canada,” the second-oldest of 18 children, and left his family at age 11 after being beaten by his alcoholic father. He later went to college and got a master’s degree in business and became general manager of Marden’s Surplus and Salvage.
LePage’s temper and rhetoric got him in some hot water during the campaign. He told voters that as governor he would tell President Obama to “go to hell,” and he blew up at reporters’ questions about homestead tax exemptions on his family’s homes in Maine and Florida. But the dip in his poll numbers was small, and temporary.
2. GOP takes control of House and Senate: Republicans capture a majority in both chambers of the Maine Legislature for the first time since 1974, dislodging Democrats who had controlled the House for 36 years and the Senate since 2002.
The transition positioned the GOP to elect constitutional officers and set the policy agenda.
Republicans ousted 16 incumbent House Democrats and three senators. Many party members credit state party chairman Charlie Webster with engineering the comeback.
3. Oxford County casino: By a margin of some 7,000 votes, Mainers approve building a $165 million resort with gaming tables in Oxford County, the first casino in the state and a boon in the eyes of its supporters to a western Maine region that has suffered greatly from high unemployment.
Opponents try, but eventually fail, to mount a recount effort.
Black Bear Entertainment announces plans to build on a 100-acre lot on Route 26 near Rabbit Valley Road, about 45 miles northwest of Portland.
The project is to be completed over five years, with the first phase involving a 65,000-square-foot casino, restaurant and lounge. Next would come a 200-room hotel, and finally a meeting space for conventions.
Black Bear expects the first phase to be complete by next year, with a grand opening planned for December 2011.
4. Olympian seth Wescott wins gold: Mainer Seth Wescott takes gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the men’s snowboardcross.
It’s the second gold for Wescott, who also won in 2006. His win came in dramatic fashion, with him running last for much of the final race and then coming from behind to win.
5. Tom Cox’s Work on foreclosures has national impact: A South Portland lawyer who works to help homeowners facing foreclosure finds himself on the national stage.
Tom Cox was among lawyers bringing a class-action suit against GMAC Mortgage Co. He discovered that in a deposition in another case, a processor in Pennsylvania admitted that he signed more than 10,000 foreclosure documents a month and did not verify the information those documents asserted, as required by Maine law.
That practice by GMAC and other lenders, dubbed ‘’robo-signing,” became a main target of the nationwide investigation.
6. President Obama visits Portland to tout health care: President Obama makes his first trip to Maine as president, speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the Portland Expo. Obama’s visit came a week after he signed health care reform into law.
During the speech, the president highlighted Theresa D’Andrea of Limerick and local business owner Bill Milliken as examples of how the new law would help people.
Obama did visit Maine again – in July, he returned with his wife, Michelle, and their daughers, Sasha and Malia, for a long weekend on Mount Desert Island.
7. Medical marijuana expansion and ramp up: The state begins setting up a system for medical marijuana dispensaries in response to voters’ November 2009 approval of a measure that expanded access to the drug.
State officials choose five groups to operate eight dispensaries around the state, including one in Portland and one in Biddeford.
Some towns, though, begin enacting local moratoriums, which slow some of the dispensaries’ plans.
8. Portland goes to strong mayor: Eighty-seven years after Portland residents abolished the post, voters resurrect the position of popularly elected mayor in November.
Currently, the nine city councilors pick one of their own for the post, which is for a one-year term and largely ceremonial.
The popularly elected mayor will serve four years, can veto a council-passed budget – subject to a possible override – and is supposed to provide day-to-day oversight of city affairs and the appointed city manager.
9. Konbit Sante plays role in Haiti earthquake response: Many Mainers step up to deliver aid in Haiti’s hour of need after an earthquake ravages the capital of Port-au-Prince.
In Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city, Konbit Sante volunteers work at Justinian Hospital and at a community health clinic in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, Fort St. Michel. While Cap Haitien wasn’t damaged by the earthquake in January, many wounded refugees went there following the earthquake.
The relief ship Sea Hunter attracts much attention during its mercy mission to the port of Les Cayes.
Owner Greg Brooks and the crew overcome numerous storms and miles of red tape to deliver 80 tons of donations from people and businesses all over Maine.
10. Stinson Seafood cannery closes: Bumble Bee Foods LLC closes the Stinson Seafood plant in Gouldsboro in April, eliminating nearly 130 jobs.
The closure marks the end of an era in Maine – the sardine processing plant was the last of dozens to operate in the state, and the last full-time plant operating in the U.S.
A Boston-based lobster company is working to purchase the plant, and plans to complete its acquisition by the middle of January. Live Lobster Co. plans to process lobster meat and bait once it gets the plant reopened.