Wednesday, March 12, 2014
There's a late entry in the race for House Republican minority leader: Current House Speaker Robert Nutting.
Nutting, of Oakland, emailed House Republicans Tuesday seeking their support. Nutting is up against Paul Davis, of Sangerville, and Ken Fredette, of Newport. Republicans will elect their leaders when they caucus in Augusta on Wednesday.
Nutting's email -- pasted below -- immediately raised eyebrows among some Republicans, who are still smarting from last week's election losses. At last count, those losses stand at 21 seats and the party's grip on the House.
Many members are privately grumbling about the re-election strategy that they believe played a part in handing the Democrats the majority.
As speaker, Nutting played some part in the decisions to protect Republican incumbents or elect new lawmakers. Nutting's political action committee targeted and spent in myriad races, while the Democrats focused on about 50 battleground districts.
It's unclear how many Republicans hold Nutting responsible for the losses, which in some cases, were by the narrowest of margins.
Nonetheless, Nutting's candidacy for minority leader is an interesting development because it adds a new wrinkle to the voting process.
Republicans cast ballots via ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to pick and rank their choices for the candidates running for leadership. Nutting benefited from the ranked-choice method in 2010 because he picked up a lot of second-place votes that his opponents didn't.
It will be interesting to see if that happens again or if the Republicans can unite behind one candidate. They'll have two distinct choices.
Davis is considered a staunch conservative who is perhaps less inclined to compromise or work with the new Democratic majority. Fredette, on the other hand, has a lot of experience working with Democrats during his time on the Legislature's budget-writing committee.
It's also worth noting that Davis appears to have the support of Gov. Paul LePage. While the governor has not made any statements on the matter, several Republicans have noted that the governor is lobbying for Davis behind the scenes. Adrienne Bennett, LePage's spokeswoman, refuted those claims, saying they were inaccurate.
Nutting's email to House Republicans:
Dear Caucus Members,
Congratulations on winning your House race. Your hard work and perseverance have paid off. I look forward to working with you in the 126thMaine Legislature.
Throughout Election night and while trying to function the next day on two hours sleep and much emotional exhaustion, I kind of wished that I had lost my race as Republicans lost the majority—some sort of survivor’s guilt, I suppose. After the initial disappointment wore off, I began to rethink that position. I had several people speak to me about running for leadership (I know everyone says that but it’s true) and their encouragement helped me decide. I plan to run for House Republican Leader and hope that you will consider voting for me.
I learned a lot during my two years as Speaker of the House and I believe I can put that knowledge to good use. I know how to work respectfully with people of different opinions to achieve common goals. I know how to manage a caucus, negotiate a budget and serve as the public face and voice of our caucus.
I work well with our new Senate leaders, Sen. Thibodeau and Sen. Katz. The House and Senate campaign teams coordinated very well to complement each other’s efforts and combine resources when beneficial. I also have an excellent relationship with the Governor, whom I’ve known for about 10 years, and his staff. Together we achieved a number of successes—the largest tax cut in Maine’s history, welfare reform, regulatory reform and uncovering fraud and waste in quasi-state agencies (like the Turnpike Authority).
We have a lot of work to do as a party. Hard-working, well-known candidates, a good message and a solid campaign plan sometimes just aren’t enough as evidenced by the fantastic people we lost. Elections are cyclical and sometimes the climate just doesn’t favor us. That is certainly the case this time as we lost a presidential bid, lost control of the Senate and House in Maine and even our friends in New Hampshire at whom we look enviously much of the time lost over 100 Republican seats in the House. That being said, over the next two years we need to continue and build upon the great work accomplished by the 125th Legislature and build a strong campaign team for 2014.
It is critical that our leader have a thorough knowledge of the budget process. In addition to negotiating six budgets as Speaker, I have the experience of serving four years on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. Also, I have served on the Insurance and Financial Services, Health and Human Services and Labor Committees.
I am a pharmacist and work per-diem for Wal-Mart. Previously, I owned and operated a retail pharmacy for over thirty years and at one time had twenty-three employees. I know what it is like to sign both sides of a paycheck and I know how hard it is for businesses to prosper in Maine.
I served twelve years on the Oakland Town Council and I know about the needs and struggles of local government. Six years ago, as Chair of the Kennebec County Republicans, I helped increase the attendance at meetings from a handful to where it is now not unusual to have 80 to 100 people from all over the county in attendance and eager to work.
I know how difficult the next two years will be and how important it is that we continue to change the course of our state. I hope that you will consider supporting me to be your Leader. I promise that I will devote all of my time and energy to do the job.
I know I missed the deadline to be on the Absentee ballot and that’s my fault for needing a little more time to come to this decision. If you have already made firm commitments, I understand but if you haven’t yet, I ask that you keep an open mind. At this point there are three of us in the race for Leader and four for Assistant Leader but, as has been the tradition in the Republican caucus, anyone can run as long as nominated and seconded from the floor. Please call me if you have any questions. My cell number is [XXX-XXXX].
Thank you for your time and your consideration,
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.