Libby Mitchell lifted a lyric from the Grateful Dead on Monday, when she was asked to describe this year’s gubernatorial campaign on WBLM-FM’s morning show.

“It’s been a long, strange trip,” Mitchell quipped, before lashing out at her opponents for characterizing her as a status quo Democrat who has raised taxes, hurt businesses and jobs, and wasted money on education.

As a leading state legislator – the current Senate president and former House speaker – Mitchell said she has balanced five state budgets, has pushed legislation to reduce the income tax (which voters overturned) and has overseen program cuts that reduced state spending to 2005 levels.

“I think people are mixing Maine up with Washington,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t cause the recession. I wasn’t the governor.”

“Boy, you’re not tired at all,” said radio host Herb “The Captain” Ivy. “The gloves are off this morning.”

Mitchell concurred. “I’m going to be working as hard as I can until the polls close.”

On the threshold of today’s election, Mitchell had a brisk schedule Monday, including three radio interviews, a meeting with an advocate for teaching Franco-American history in schools, a gathering of Portland businesswomen, lunch with supporters in Kennebunk and several stops at Democratic get-out-the-vote operations in Portland, Biddeford and York.

Robin Dulac was the “comfort captain” at Democratic headquarters on Fore Street in Portland, providing food, beverages and support to more than 100 people who would be canvassing and calling for candidates throughout the day. Dulac, who lives in Auburn and works in Portland, gave up four vacation days to work for Mitchell.

“We are proud of her because she has always been working for us,” Dulac said. “The Democratic base needs to support candidates like her to keep us moving forward. I haven’t lost my enthusiasm.”

At Arabica Coffee Co. on Free Street, Mitchell met with Barry Rodrigue, a University of Southern Maine professor who has proposed a bill to make Franco-American history required learning in Maine schools.

Rodrigue said Franco-Americans are the largest ethnic group in Maine and they should lead the way in developing a history curriculum for public schools that better reflects Maine’s diversity, past and present. Mitchell agreed.

“It’s something I support very strongly, and I think as governor I could provide the leadership to make it happen,” Mitchell said.

At Coffee Design on India Street, Mitchell met with owner Mary Allen Lindemann and other supporters to talk about the needs of Maine’s business community.

Lindemann said her business is growing, with four shops and an expanding wholesale operation that’s providing coffees to 400 retailers, as far away as New York City and San Francisco. She leased 11,000 square feet of warehouse space on Monday with help from Pine Tree Zone tax breaks, which Mitchell championed.

“I hear so much about what’s wrong with Maine,” Lindemann said. “I want to talk about how we move forward. I want a Maine we can all be proud of. We’ve got a lot to fix, but it takes time.”

One thing that needs fixing is health care, Lindemann said. She provides health benefits for her employees, but the cost is too high, she said.

Mitchell said she would establish an exchange to help Maine business owners, municipalities and school districts buy health coverage at a lower cost. She also would create an advisory council of socially responsible business owners to help develop policies to improve the state’s business climate.

“We don’t want to go backward with these things,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell planned to start today voting in her hometown of Vassalboro, followed by visits to polling places in Augusta, Lewiston, Auburn, Scarborough and Portland. She’ll wind up at an election night party at Bayside Bowl, her son Charlie’s business on Alder Street in Portland.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]