Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Monday's news that a state senator wants Gov. Paul LePage to suspend the study of an east-west highway across Maine could have some impact on Republicans' campaign rhetoric.
The GOP and the governor have touted the feasibility study as one of several policy victories that will improve Maine's economy and business climate. The Maine House Republican Facebook page used a graphic in July that said the study would pave the way for a highway project that will create "2,000 new private-sector jobs." The LePage administration in May also championed the study and included it in a 20-page booklet, "Making Maine Prosperous," saying the project would "promote trade and commerce with Canada."
Such claims may diminish now that Sen. Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, has acknowledged that he underestimated the fear and opposition among residents who live in the potential path of the highway. The governor's office also appears to be sensitive to those concerns.
Thomas is running for re-election. His opponent, Rep. Herb Clark, D-Millinocket, co-sponsored the study bill but has since backed off from his support.
While putting the brakes on the study will probably impact GOP campaign rhetoric, most Democrats, particularly incumbent representatives, probably won't be able to make it into an electoral issue. The bill that authorized the study had two Democratic co-sponsors, including Clark. This bill passed the Senate, mostly along party lines. However, most Democrats supported it in the House when it passed 110-28.
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.