During the weeks following any major election, people and pundits from all aspects of the political landscape emerge and try to assign blame or credit for the results to issues that favor their ideology. These are usually overstated, if not outright wrong.

The 2022 election for governor, for example, was not decided by the abortion issue. Likewise, it was not decided by a disproportionate share of campaign spending by one side. Money does not have the hold on our elections that many perceive. As I see it, three main factors influenced the outcome of this race. They follow here in no particular order.

First, Mainers simply do not remove incumbent governors from office. In the modern political era, it has happened only once and that was more than a half-century ago in 1966, a tumultuous era that invited radical societal change and it showed in the statewide voting result. The months leading up to this election were marred by Vietnam War protests, race riots, the Cold War and more, making drastic change more acceptable to voters.

Second, Maine’s mainstream media as a whole simply will not support a Republican candidate. While this might have seemed like a bogeyman of the right in years past, it became undeniable in this campaign. One need only look at the first gubernatorial debate where a pro-Mills bias was laid bare. For example, Maine Public Broadcasting Network reporter Steve Mistler stepped out of his role as debate questioner by arguing directly with LePage over his response to a question. It was an embarrassing exchange that exposed an inherent bias. Any responsible editor would have taken Mistler off of the campaign beat because of it.

During the debate Mills repeatedly referred to the “bipartisan” budget, referencing a small supplement to the state’s overall two-year spending plan, not the $8.3 billion plan passed a year earlier. Mills signed that larger budget though it was the result of partisan thuggery by Democrats who excluded Republicans from the process entirely. The largest two-year budget in Maine history passed by the strictest of partisan votes. Not a single debate analysis, however, challenged Mills’ misleading characterization of herself as a bipartisan budget negotiator.

Third, and most importantly, Maine is becoming a more and more Democratic state.

As of June 2022, the number of registered Democrats in Maine jumped ahead of the number of registered unenrolled voters. With 125,000 more voters registered in Maine vs. 2014, the breakdown became Democrats: 37%, Republicans: 28% and unenrolled: 32%. Between the pool of new registered voters and the number that switched from unenrolled to Democrat, that party now has a large and growing advantage over their Republican rivals.

About 60% of registered voters turned out and voted in the 2022 governor’s race. For Paul LePage to have overcome this numerical Democratic advantage, assuming Republican and Democratic defections were relatively equal, he would have had to attract the votes of 70% of unenrolled voters. This would have required an issue that swayed more than two-thirds of “independent” voters without changing the turnout or votes of either major party. This populist idea and issue, however, did not exist.

Put simply, Maine has become a solidly Democratic state, and while the next governor’s election will not include an incumbent, the challenge for Republicans is to find a candidate and a small set of powerful but easy to communicate issues that appeal to those not registered with the GOP without alienating any part of their base. This is a daunting challenge, but four years is a long time.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.