Monday, December 9, 2013
The St. John Valley reacts to the defeat of longtime legislative legend John Martin of Eagle Lake.
By Tom Bell firstname.lastname@example.org
(Continued from page 1)
2005 File Photo/The Associated Press
THE CAREER OF JOHN MARTIN: A TIMELINE
• 1964 – First elected to the Maine House of Representatives.
• 1971 to 1974 – Serves as minority floor leader in the Maine House.
• 1975 to 1994 – Serves as speaker of the House.
• 1992 – A ballot-tampering scandal implicates an aide to Martin. Although there was no proof that Martin was involved, many voters speculated that he must have ordered the tampering because he was so powerful.
• 1993 – Maine voters pass term limits.
• 1996 – Term limits force Martin to give up his House seat for one term.
• 1998 – Martin defeats the incumbent Republican to win back his seat in the Maine House.
• 2000 to 2008 – Martin serves in the Maine Senate.
• 2008 to 2012 – Martin serves in the Maine House.
In an interview after his defeat, Martin also blamed his defeat on money that he said was spent heavily on negative campaign ads.
Martin and Nadeau were Clean Election candidates. The state's Clean Election Act discourages the influence of money in elections by giving qualifying candidates a set amount of public funding for their campaigns. This year, however, outside groups were allowed to spend money on behalf of candidates without the state awarding an equal amount of money to their opponents.
Respect Maine, a political action committee controlled by Rep. Andre Cushing of Hampden, the outgoing assistant House majority leader, spent about $30,000 on five races in Aroostook County, Cushing said, with most of the money spent on trying to unseat Jackson.
On the Nadeau-Martin race, Cushing said, the PAC spent $4,800 on ads in the St. John Valley Times and Fiddlehead Focus. That's not much money compared to the amount spent in many races downstate, he said.
The PAC also mailed a flier aimed at both Jackson and Martin. It had an image of a stopwatch and the words: "Maine has term limits for a reason."
MARTIN'S BUSINESS DEALINGS QUESTIONED
Interviews with voters last week in Fort Kent and Eagle Lake revealed little enthusiasm for the theories that the Democratic Party was losing support or had been outspent by Republicans. After all, President Obama, a Democrat, defeated Republican Mitt Romney by a wide margin here.
Rather, voters said they had simply grown weary of the way Martin had come to dominate political life here, and they questioned whether he was using his influence for his own financial advantage.
"He was responsible for his own demise," said Harold Jackson, 65, of Fort Kent, who serves with Martin on the SAD 27 board.
Jackson said recent newspaper articles about Martin's business practices had a big impact on people's opinion about him.
The stories in the St. John Valley Times and Bangor Daily News said that Martin and a business partner were allowed by a federal bankruptcy to buy back their Eagle Lake convenience store and gas station, the Bald Eagle, for $125,000 -- less than half of what they owed to creditors, primarily Irving Oil Marketing Inc. of Portsmouth, N.H.
The bankruptcy came to public attention this year during a legislative hearing on a bill Martin sponsored to allow J.D. Irving Co. to mine gold, silver, copper and other metals in Aroostook County's Bald Mountain.
Martin, who did not return phone calls for this story, has previously said that the allegations of conflict of interest are "false insinuations."
Officials at J.D. Irving have told the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that there is no legal relationship between its company and Irving Oil, which is the firm that is owed money by Martin's store.
Both firms are privately held by the Irving family of Canada.
The "gossip" about Martin's business dealings are based on a misunderstanding about business and bankruptcy, said Raymond Reynold, a former Eagle Lake town manager who now works as CEO of Northern Maine General.
Reynold drove a reporter around town showing what Martin has done for the community over the decades. He said Martin in the 1960s helped keep Northern Maine General open as a long-term care facility and social service agency after a new hospital was built in Fort Kent.
He drove to the wastewater treatment facility and past a health clinic and several housing units for brain-damaged and mentally disabled people. The town has the only therapy pool for disabled people north of Bangor. All of these programs have created jobs, he said.
"A lot of people don't realize the impact he has had on the lives of people," Reynold said.
Replacing Martin will be Nadeau, a fiscal and social conservative who owns a landscaping supply business in Fort Kent. Nadeau said Martin hasn't done enough to revive the region's historic occupations, logging and farming.
"Yes, there are political giants. He has done great work," Nadeau said of Martin. "But what has he done to protect jobs that were once here?"
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: email@example.com