October 26, 2011

Bill Nemitz: ‘Question 1’ documentary holds lessons for next vote

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Frank Schubert of the California firm Schubert Flint Public Affairs claims victory for the Yes on 1 campaign to repeal same-sex marriage on Nov. 3, 2009, at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland. At left, clapping, is Marc Mutty, the campaign chairman from Maine. “We’ve been accused all the way through that Frank Schubert was running this campaign. And he just proved it,” Mutty says later that night in comments captured in the documentary “Question 1.”

2009 Associated Press file

Then there’s election night.

Schubert is here, there and everywhere at “Yes on 1” headquarters at the Eastland Park Hotel, granting interviews to a phalanx of television news crews. Mutty, meanwhile, sits away from the lights in the ballroom, taking it all in with his wife, Pam.

“They just interviewed him on (Channel) 8,” Pam tells her husband. “He’s standing up there saying,

‘I’m chairman of the campaign.’ I thought you were chairman of the campaign.”

“Yeah, I am,” Mutty replies. “Who cares ... who cares ... who cares? Right?”

“Right,” replies his less-than-pleased wife.

But Mutty did care. And in an interview with the documentary crew later that night, he demonstrates just how much.

“Frank Schubert has certainly done a great job of stealing the limelight,” Mutty says. “He’s getting paid to do what he’s doing. And we’ve been accused all the way through that Frank Schubert was running this campaign. And he just proved it.

“And then he gets up there and declares victory for us, without checking with me. And had he checked with me, he would have told me to go to hell, I’m sure. And that was all about Frank doing marketing and making sure he was setting himself up for the next campaign.”

Some undoubtedly will dismiss Mutty’s mutterings as nothing more than the typical infighting that goes on behind the curtains of any highly charged political campaign. Mutty himself is sticking to his decreasingly convincing claim that he was portrayed – over and over and over – out of context.

But as same-sex marriage supporters doggedly circulate their petitions to put the issue back on the ballot a year from now, Maine voters would do well to see this film. (On Sunday, “Question 1” was named the best documentary for 2011 by the REEL Independent Film Extravaganza in Washington, D.C.)

Documentarian Fox, who happens to be gay, said in an interview last week that his goal in producing “Question 1” was to act as “a mirror” to all of Maine as it grappled with same-sex marriage.

He accomplishes that admirably by framing the narrative around five central characters: Darlene Huntress, field operations director for “No on 1,” Sarah Dowling, a “No on 1” volunteer, Pastor Bob Emrich, co-chairman of “Yes on 1,” Linda Seavey, a “Yes on 1” volunteer and, last but by no means least, Mutty.

But Schubert, who three times refused to do an on-camera interview with Fox, in the end quietly steals the show – much as he used fabricated fears for Maine’s school children to steal the election.

“The people of Maine need to see this,” Fox said. “This was a campaign that split Maine apart. This was a campaign in which people voted in part because of messages that were given to them.”

It’s also a campaign whose sequel is just around the corner. Might “Question 1” help inform that debate?

“It absolutely should,” Fox said. “People who go to the polls in the next round should know what went on during the first round.”

So, fellow Mainers, enjoy the show.

And if that’s asking too much, at least learn from it.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: bnemitz@mainetoday.com

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