February 25, 2013

State House Notebook: House majority leader doesn't like his rival's tone

From staff reports

Democratic and Republican leaders in the Maine House made an interesting dual appearance on television station WCSH (Channel 6) on Friday, and each took some heat from the other side afterward.

Foreshadowing potential divides in upcoming negotiations, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said, "There's going to be a real battle on this biennial budget and, quite frankly, a government shutdown is something that's a possibility."

Maine had its last government shutdown in 1991, when lawmakers couldn't pass a budget and state workers were shut out.

To Fredette's point, House Majority Leader Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said the remark was "really an attempt to pull Augusta towards Washington, D.C." in tone.

Earlier in the appearance, Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, didn't say whether he'd want to keep information on gun permits confidential or not. The issue arose after an uproar by gun-rights advocates on Valentine's Day, responding to the news that the Bangor Daily News had requested then-publicly available names, addresses and dates of birth on Maine gun permits.

Days later, the Legislature passed a bill making the list temporarily confidential while a permanent bill is considered. Fredette said the information shouldn't be public.

Afterward on Twitter, Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, wrote that Eves "refuses to say that personal info of concealed carry permit holders should be kept private permanently."


A new blog, "The Cutler Flies," posted its first entry Friday.

"Flies" isn't a typo: it's a reference to "The Cutler Files," an anonymous blog that started in 2010 featuring opposition research on Eliot Cutler, then an independent candidate for governor. He's filed paperwork to raise money for a 2014 run.

Dennis Bailey, a Portland-based media relations consultant, was found to be behind that blog, and the Maine Ethics Commission later fined him $200 for not identifying himself.

The new, anonymous blog's first posting is hard on Bailey, saying the first site "was a bit of opposition research gone horribly, horribly wrong."

"This time, it gets done RIGHT," the post concludes.

Bailey said Friday that he's not behind the site, but he saw it for the first time that day and he's not surprised that someone may examine Cutler's past again.

"It never really got the attention it deserved. It all became a cat-and-mouse game," Bailey said. "We still don't know who Eliot Cutler is."

Meanwhile, Ted O'Meara, a spokesman for Cutler, said he saw it Friday as well and didn't know what to make of it.

"I'm sure there are people ready to start in again with the negativity and distortion," O'Meara said. "I guess it comes with the territory these days."


And while we're talking 2014, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and a national election expert, dubbed Gov. Paul LePage one of four current governors who are a "red alert" for re-election, and called the race a "toss-up."

As he foreshadowed on his blog, Sabato's Crystal Ball, the central question of the race (until the answer is known) will be what Democrats decide to do.

"Should one of their top contenders, such as Reps. Chellie Pingree or Mike Michaud or ex-Gov. John Baldacci, jump in the race?" he wrote. "Or should they essentially just step aside for Cutler and nominate a token challenger, much like they did in the 2012 Senate race, when independent, now-Sen. Angus King was the de facto Democratic nominee?"

(Continued on page 2)

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