March 13, 2013

LePage pick for health board withdraws nomination

Former Republican state Rep. Jonathan McKane says last week's confirmation hearing was a 'coordinated attack' by liberal groups.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage's pick for the Dirigo Health board of trustees withdrew his nomination Tuesday while blasting three Democratic groups for attacking him during his original confirmation hearing last week.

click image to enlarge

Former state Rep. Jonathan B. McKane in a May 2011 photo. .

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Jonathan McKane, a former state representative from Newcastle, made his remarks to the Legislature's Insurance Committee, one week after the panel rejected his nomination to the Dirigo board via an 8-5 vote.

During the initial hearing Democratic-aligned groups lined up to testify against McKane, a vociferous critic of the Dirigo Health program, for comments he had made on the conservative website As Maine Goes and other online forums. Some claimed that McKane was sexist for referring to female proponents of Dirigo as "Dirigirls," and that his contempt for the program made him unfit to serve on its board of trustees.

McKane was not given the chance to respond to those claims last week, which is a violation of the Legislature's joint rules for confirmations. McKane returned to the Insurance Committee on Tuesday to rebut his opponents.

McKane described last week's hearing as a "coordinated attack" by the Maine Education Association, the Maine Peoples Alliance and the Consumers for Affordable Healthcare. Members from each organization testified against McKane last week.

McKane acknowledged that he had little chance of getting confirmed. However, he said, "I felt it was important to stand up to the ridiculous, baseless insults that were part of that coordinated attack from the left."

McKane indicated that the hearing was retribution against him for going "toe-to-toe" with progressive groups and ideology. He said other Republicans had been taken down by those groups.

"I feel honored to be in the same company as those fine folks who were attacked so mercilessly," he said. "They did not get a chance to rebut that false testimony as I am today."

As for his online comments, McKane reiterated what he said last week, saying his remarks were often "tongue in cheek" and designed to provoke some regular posters on As Maine Goes.

McKane said he took offense to implications that he would not be able to work with members of the Dirigo board because he had been publicly critical of previous board members or the program.

McKane concluded his remarks by announcing that he was withdrawing his nomination.

All seven Democrats opposed his nomination last week. Sen. Dick Woodbury, a Yarmouth independent, also voted against McKane. The Democratic-led Senate unanimously confirmed two other Republican nominations to the board, Gary Reed and Wesley Richardson.

LePage last week indicated that he'd leave the board slot slated for McKane vacant.


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