A lot of numbers have been thrown around in an attempt to analyze Tuesday’s special election in Senate District 19.
First there is the nearly 50 percent of the vote received by victorious Democrat Eloise Vitelli, a newcomer to political office; and the more than $150,000 shelled out in a race that drew 9,317 votes, most of it spent linking the Republican candidate, Paula Benoit, to Gov. Paul LePage.
Also in the mix is the popularity of the governor, which is the 35 percent LePage received in a poll conducted last weekend by Public Policy Polling of North Carolina.
That’s compared to the 39 percent garnered by Democratic 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who recently formally announced his run for the Blaine House. Michaud’s lead is outside the margin of error, making him the early front-runner in the race.
Those numbers were clearly reflected in the Democratic Party’s strategy in the District 19 race, which was to try to turn the local race into a referendum on the governor’s performance.
The number that may matter most, however, is 27, as in Aug. 27, 2013, more than 15 months before polls open and Mainers elect a governor and the next Legislature. There’s a lot of work left to be done by LePage and legislators, and that time should be spent on the policies that most affect the lives of Mainers, not on the politics of campaigns.
There are important issues left to debate.
When the Legislature convenes in January, the future of municipal revenue sharing could again be on the agenda, with the added knowledge of how the cuts in the most recent budget have affected communities.
The refusal to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, passed in the Legislature but vetoed by LePage, could be revisited as pressure mounts to confront rising health care costs in Maine.
A bill seeking a change to Maine’s school funding formula was carried over until January.
The fervor and financial backing of the Senate District 19 race, following the record spending of the 2012 legislative elections, is likely a preview of the 2014 races, but it shouldn’t signal the start of the campaign.