September 10, 2013

Common Core rift confronts Gov. LePage

Two key Republican constituencies – the tea party and business – are on opposite sides.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

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The federal government's Common Core education standards are reviled by tea party activists but glorified by business interests. That's become a thorny problem for Gov. Paul LePage.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

It's unclear who will win the Common Core battle, tea party activists or a Republican establishment hoping to stay in the good graces of powerful business interests like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. According to Professor Brewer, the national battle for control of the Republican Party is being fought at the state level, too.

"I also don't think there's any doubt that there's a fight going on for the heart and soul of the Maine Republican Party, between the more establishment wing and the tea party wing," Brewer said.

The ideological rift among Republicans has been well-documented. Despite calls for party unity, the schism remains. In mid-August, six members of the Republican State Committee abruptly resigned, citing the governor's veto of bills that would have regulated law enforcement use of drones, protected cellphone privacy and allowed for the sale of raw milk.

Also cited by the disgruntled committee members was LePage's advancement of Common Core.

LePage attempted to assuage some of those concerns in an Aug. 3 radio address, when he announced he was issuing an executive order on drones and preparing a bill to allow for the sale of raw milk.

The governor may appear to have a more difficult balancing act with Common Core. However, Brewer said, there's probably a ceiling on the defection of tea party supporters, who won't have alternatives to LePage in 2014.

"If I'm Paul LePage and trying to figure out who I'm trying to balance against, I'm going to try and keep the (U.S. Chamber of Commerce) on my side," Brewer said. "Yeah, I don't want to irritate the libertarian wing either, but the reality is that to use your vote to register against a candidate, you have to have (another) option."

Additionally, Brewer said, LePage has been pretty good to his base.

"He's really delivered a lot to that wing of the party," he said

Clarification: This story was updated to change a reference to Common Core, an initiative developed by states. 

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:


Twitter: @stevemistler


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