Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
The Portland-based polling firm Pan Atlantic SMS Group released its omnibus poll Tuesday. The survey reviewed a host of hot topics confronting state lawmakers, but its questions about the 2014 gubernatorial race are, predictably, generating the most discussion.
While political operatives are spinning and discrediting the other results -- or at least those that don't align with their interests -- one question perhaps best captures what the gubernatorial contest will come down to next year: More polls.
The question is near the end of the survey. It asked: "Let’s assume that as Election Day, 2014 approaches, your preferred candidate for governor is polling significantly behind the other two major candidates. In those circumstances, would you consider voting for your second choice candidate in order to increase the likelihood of defeating Governor Paul LePage?"
The question was only asked of respondents who said they were leaning or planning to vote for Democratic candidate Mike Michaud or independent Eliot Cutler, but nearly 68 percent said, 'yes,' they would strategically cast votes to prevent a second term for LePage. Of course, those voters will be relying on polls to make such decisions.
The Maine Citizens for Clean Elections released a report Monday detailing the flood of money spent by outside groups on Maine's elections.
We've covered the rise of independent expenditures often and recently, so readers of those stories will be familiar with some of the information in the MCCE report. However, the group's report also focuses on the shadow money trail, how political action committees registered here act as pass-through agents for wealthy national donors and interest groups that are attempting to spread their influence in Maine while using non-profit organizations to obscure the true origins of the money.
The report also indirectly links the big spenders in the 2012 District 23 state Senate race to national groups funded by the Koch brothers and George Soros.
BJ McCollister, Program Director for MCCE, said in a written statement that change to campaign finance laws by the U.S. Supreme Court and weak disclosure laws at the local level make it difficult for Maine voters to determine who is spending money to influence their decisions at the ballot box.
(This post was clarified to show Thibodeau will finish his term in the Senate - S.M.)
State Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, confirmed Tuesday that he may seek the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District.
Thibodeau, currently serving as the minority leader in the Senate, said that his potential bid for the seat currently held by U.S.Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, will hinge on whether he can build enough support to win the Republican primary and fulfill his duties in District 23.
The Alexander Group, the Rhode Island firm conducting the hotly disputed $925,000 study of Maine's public assistance programs has missed its first target deadline.
According to the contract signed by Gary Alexander, the principal of the Alexander Group and former welfare chief in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, the group's Medicaid expansion feasibility study was due Dec. 1. However, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Monday afternoon that the group had not submitted that portion of the study, parts of which are not due until Dec. 20 or next year. John Martins, the spokesman for DHHS, did not provide an explanation for the missed deadline, but has reportedly said that the due date was only a target, not set in stone.
Nonetheless, the missed deadline is feeding widespread criticism of a study that opponents say was designed as a taxpayer-funded validation of reforms that the LePage administration has already embraced or attempted to implement. The expertise of Alexander's firm -- which according to the contract appears to be located at his home address -- has also come under scrutiny for employing staff that have little or no experience as actuaries or professionals who can evaluate complex health insurance programs like Medicaid.
Gov. Paul LePage's reelection campaign -- and more recently his administration -- are touting a monthly report by the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve showing that Maine is one of 11 states with a "booming" economy.
Said LePage via press statement, "When we took office, Maine’s economy was a mess, workers were losing their jobs in droves, and our state budget was a nightmare after years of liberals who advocated for tax increases, out-of-control government spending and the use of one-time money from the federal government."
The Reserve graphic would seem to make a compelling case. There's Maine awash in dark green (like dolla-dolla bills, y'all!). But before we bust out the $10,000, 15 liter bottle of Armand de Brignac Nebuchadnezzar Champagne, a la David Ortiz, a word of caution.
The three-month index by the fed reserve is far from perfect and economists traditionally caution against drawing any big conclusions from the report. One reason is because the index relies heavily on states' monthly employment reports, which are often revised (Remember the Pew study that claimed Maine was one of three states to lose jobs between 2012 and 2013?). And, those government job reports are based on a survey of approximately 3 percent of the state's employers.