Friday, March 7, 2014
In 2010, Republican operative Matthew Gagnon wrote an insightful column showing the 26 Maine towns that are proven election bellwethers. Basically, Gagnon used voter registration and election results to show us which municipalities were relatively split between Republican and Democratic voters -- or heavily unenrolled voters -- thus providing early indication of which towns could signal the overall winner (The Press Herald took the same approach in 2012 to identify legislative battleground districts). Greenwood, it seems, is the best of the lot.
Among the swing towns is Bath, which just happens to be the most populous municipality in Senate District 19, the seat currently contested by Republican Paula Benoit, Democrat Eloise Vitelli and Green Independent Daniel Stromgren. The special election is Tuesday.
Given that SD 19 is a swing district, a candidate's affiliation with party ideologues is sometimes best avoided. That may be why Benoit is touted as an across-the-aisle pol in this mail piece that features an endorsement from Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. Snowe's political reputation is built on centrism:
So, if Benoit is such a centrist, then why is the Maine Democratic Party running a radio spot linking her to such a hardened partisan like Gov. Paul LePage?
The answer is simple: Linking any and all Republicans to LePage is a big reason Democrats won back the Legislature in 2012. It's the same reason the party continues to fundraise off the governor's impolitic comments
The Maine Democratic party, which paid for the above spot, has a relatively easy task since Benoit was formerly employed by First Lady Ann Ann LePage. Even if SD 19 voters like the policies she's advocating, a connection to the controversial governor is considered a liability. Maine Republican Phil Harriman does a good job articulating the problem facing Republicans in this Politico piece.
So, it's no wonder that the radio spot leads off with a few of the governor's "greatest hits."
Not included is the governor's reported comments during a private fundraiser that President Obama "hates white people." Since those comments were reported, some scrutinized the motives of the Republican sources that confirmed LePage's remarks. More specifically, there have been questions why some of the anonymous sources were reportedly waiting until after the special election to come forward, put their names to what they heard.
That Democratic Party radio spot, and the 2012 election, may partially explain why the Republicans were motivated to keep quiet.
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.