Governor LePage reelected

In a race that was tight down to the very end, incumbent Governor Paul LePage ultimately won reelection on Nov. 4. LePage secured his second term in the Blaine House with a five percent margin of victory and a greater proportion of the vote—ten points higher—than he earned in 2010.

Democratic political strategists’ main concern rang true when election results came in—a three-way race would give LePage a decisive advantage. By all accounts, they were spot-on.

The Democratic candidate, Congressman Mike Michaud, secured 43.3 percent of the vote, while Independent Eliot Cutler took home the remaining eight percent. LePage, however, managed to secure almost half of Maine’s electorate with 48.8 percent of the vote.

Many Democrats argued that Cutler should have forfeited the race when poll forecasts looked bleak; by not doing so, they claim, he undercut Michaud’s favorable chances of supplanting the eccentric politician LePage has been repeatedly cited as “America’s Craziest Governor” for his antics and for his views on major political issues, including gay marriage, abortion, and social services.

President of the Colby Democrats, Jane Wiesenberg ’16, implored a change of heart to those thinking of voting for Cutler in a schoolwide email entitled, “A Vote for Cutler = A Vote for LePage.” “This election is, at its core, a battle between Democrat Mike Michaud and independent candidate, Eliot Cutler—both strong options for the governorship. Yet, the problem is that LePage stands to gain from this battle, just as he did in 2010. At this point, the LePage campaign — and its ever-famous Koch Brother funders — have resorted to campaigning in support of Cutler, in hopes of detracting from Michaud’s base,” Wiesenberg said.

In the end, Democratic fears were prescient. When asked about how LePage secured his reelection bid, Wiesenberg responded: “LePage won for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the nature of the three-way race. Eliot Cutler and [Michaud] were two very similar candidates, sharing views on a number of issues, ranging from healthcare, to the environment, to social policy….The fact that Maine does not have a ranked-voting or runoff system, allowed LePage to win the governorship with just a plurality of the vote,” Wiesenberg said.

Chris Shorey ’16, David Watson ’15, and Elizabeth Allen ’15, active members of the Colby Republicans, cite several reasons for Governor LePage’s victory that do not involve the three-way race. “Governor LePage secured his reelection bid through hard work on the campaign trail,” Shorey said, “and a message that resonates extremely well with the people of Maine. During his first four years in office, he refused to compromise his core values in the face of pressure to do so because it was popular. As a Maine voter, this was refreshing to see,” Shorey said.

Watson, President of the Colby Republicans, deemed fundraising an essential factor in LePage’s victory. “In 2014, more money was spent on the gubernatorial race—almost [double] that of 2010. Spending totaled $19.2 million from LePage, Michaud, and Cutler combined. A sizeable portion of the money, $5.9 million invested into the LePage re-election campaign … came from the Republican Governor’s Association [RGA],” said Watson.

For Allen, LePage’s reelection is founded on the merit of his economic policies. “Maine is a state suffering from negative population growth and a lack of business. Governor LePage understands the economic ramifications of negative population growth, [the lack of unemployment opportunities for young people which causes a] brain drain, as well as the struggles of the unemployed. Four more years of LePage’s policies will add strength to…Maine’s industry partnerships, providing job counseling and training for Mainers looking to advance their skills and decrease welfare dependency. For the economic future of Maine, re-electing Governor Paul LePage was the right thing to do,” Allen said.

Nevertheless, Wiesenberg also cited turnout as a factor that helped LePage. “Turnout was another important part of the story. It is likely that turnout in more Democratic areas of the state was not as high as it has been in other years, like 2012, when Barack Obama secured a 15-point victory in Maine. Moreover, Amendment 1 on this year’s ballot, a ban on bear baiting, may have drawn voters (in opposition to the ban), who are normally less likely to vote to the polls. It seems less than coincidental that LePage won by about the same five-point margin that the bear-baiting ban lost by,” said Wiesenberg. Shorey agreed: “The bear baiting referendum helped his reelection chances by leaps and bounds….Its effects cannot be underestimated. “

In Maine, Question I (which looked to prohibit the use of traps, bait, and dogs to hunt bears) was the hottest topic on the ballot. Ultimately, the referendum was rejected.

Six additional ballot measures concerning funding for various state initiatives were proffered to the Maine electorate, all of which ultimately passed.

On a day that saw the GOP make substantial midterm gains in both chambers of Congress, Maine followed suit. As regards the next four years for the state, Wiesenberg felt that “LePage’s reelection likely means more of the same for Maine. In his last four years in office, LePage vetoed a Medicaid expansion, impeded investment in wind energy, and enacted the biggest tax cut in Maine’s history, lowering rates for those at the top of the income bracket. In the next four years, we can expect to see further regression on environmental regulations and devastating cuts to the state’s social safety net.”

Watson, however, felt differently. “We must not go back to the failed Democratic policies of fiscal irresponsibility and more regulation that have hurt Maine for decades prior to LePage’s tenure. [The voters] understood we needed action on critical issues such as job creation, energy costs, and welfare reform and Governor LePage is the type of leader we need to deliver results. Despite LePage’s quirks, which can sometimes be a little much for my taste, he is brutally honest and we need more politicians like that.”