Election coverage, quite naturally, has focused on the ascent of the Republican Party – nationally with control of the Senate, and in Maine with retention of the Blaine House and winning control of the Senate.

These gains are undoubtedly important and will occupy much of the time of politicians, pundits and public policy specialists over the next several months. But this focus on ideological realignment and new agendas should not come at the expense of a very important second message sent by Maine voters last Tuesday, namely, “Don’t forget about the real issue underlying this political shift; it’s the economy!”

Gov. Paul LePage won 48 percent of the vote, but all six of the bond issues offered to Maine voters won over 50 percent of the vote. And four won over 60 percent of the vote. Only Question No. 5 – $3 million “to expand infrastructure in a biological laboratory … to increase biotechnology workforce training” – could be said to have squeaked through with just over 51 percent. Support for the others ranged from 59 percent to 65 percent, higher approval ratings than won by most individuals standing for election.

In the past, the governor has refused to issue bonds already approved on the grounds that the state has to “pay its bills” before it can borrow money. Today, it is clear, the voters have said, “Thanks, we’re glad you paid our bills, but we also want you to look to our future.” The bonds approved last Tuesday address the needs of a wide range of businesses and research organizations and initiatives. Alone, they won’t solve our economic problems. But they do demonstrate that Maine voters have concerns that go beyond reducing taxes and regulations and reforming the way we operate our social safety net. Maine voters have said that they are interested in building in the economy of the future and that they understand that doing so requires their participating in the investments that will make that possible.

Several of the bonds approved reflect Maine’s traditional support for small business, development of our natural resources – particularly our marine resources – and revitalization of our villages and downtown areas. But other of those bonds do venture into new areas. Questions No. 4 and No. 5 clearly place Maine voters among the backers of advanced biotechnology research designed to further basic knowledge and to apply that knowledge to life-saving medical advances. By approving these bonds, they are acknowledging the significance of the world-class research institutions we already have and of the necessity of backing them with their pocketbooks so that they will remain in Maine and continue to create the challenging and high-paying jobs they have added throughout this most economically challenging decade.

In short, as the Republicans meet to chart their strategies to put their new mandate into practice, they should step out of the spotlight and remember to call the other players on the ballot to the front for a bow.

While these bond issues never enjoyed headline billings, their audience response ratings were far higher than those won by the stars of the show. If those stars want to shine in the future, they won’t forget this fact. They will, rather, remember the importance of these stars of the future and give them their due as they prepare for their own second acts.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions Inc. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]