Maine Republicans would be making a big mistake if they make former Gov. Paul LePage their 2022 candidate for his old job. But not for the reasons you think.
It’s not because LePage is a blowhard, a bully, and a bumbler – although that’s all true. It’s not because Florida Paul spent eight years trashing vital state services, such as public-health nursing, land conservation, child-abuse prevention, and health care for the poor – although that’s true, too. It has nothing to do with him being racist, sexist and xenophobic – although while in office, he did a swell impersonation.
The real reason LePage would be a lousy candidate to defeat the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Janet Mills, is because he agrees with Mills on one of the state’s most controversial issues.
LePage, like Mills, supports Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed transmission line through western Maine to supply Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts. In fact, he’s even more enthusiastic about the deal than she is.
During LePage’s gubernatorial tenure, CMP revealed plans to rip up a large patch of wilderness used by hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, white-water rafters, and hikers because the utility stood to make millions sending juice from Hydro Quebec’s dams to the Bay State. In return for the damage it would inflict on Maine, CMP offered the equivalent of a box of used extension cords, some old electric meters, and free rides in one of its bucket trucks.
When Mills took office, she negotiated a slightly better deal: pitifully small reductions in customer bills, electric vehicle charging stations, subsidies for heat pumps, and free rides in two bucket trucks.
The bottom line is neither Mills nor LePage can be depended upon to defend the backbone of much of the economy in western Maine, which is outdoor recreation.
Of course, the next gubernatorial election is more than two years away, and by then, the issue could be settled. A referendum on the November ballot will allow the public to flip the switch on this boondoggle. But if CMP loses at the ballot box, the company will almost certainly go to court in an attempt to overturn the results. Given the complexity of the case, the sluggish pace of legal proceedings, and the possibility of delays caused by pandemic precautions, it’s hardly outrageous to expect this controversy to still be raging in 2022.
Speaking of the coronavirus, some GOP strategists are suggesting LePage would have an edge over Mills because he’s been more eager to open the state up to reinfecting itself. The current governor’s seemingly arbitrary decisions – she announced an Economic Recovery Panel on May 6, but two days later, before this group even had time to have its Zoom meetings attacked by hackers, Mills announced she was reopening 12 of the state’s 16 counties to business as quasi-normal – aligning her with fruitcakes who think lifting all restrictions will work because: magic.
These know-nothings were apparently hoping to frame the election as Democratic incompetence versus Republican ignorance, but Mills’ abrupt pivot left them – and rational people – scratching their heads.
The governor’s waffling still doesn’t paint LePage as the most attractive option for the GOP. (The preceding sentence includes the words “LePage” and “attractive” in close proximity. I have no explanation for that.) The elephant party is loaded with politicians who favor both taking our chances with COVID-19 and not taking any chances with CMP. Lots of them would make more formidable foes against Mills than Gator Boy LePage.
In 1942, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was forced to abandon the Philippines because of an impending Japanese invasion. “I shall return,” he proclaimed. MacArthur didn’t add, “As soon as they lower these damn taxes and allow anyone to get sick if they want to.”
In 2018, LePage abandoned Maine for Florida because he didn’t like paying state income tax. He talked about teaching college political-science courses but wound up working as a bartender. He proclaimed he might come back if things don’t go the way he wanted them to.
If Maine Republicans were smart, they’d scare LePage away by threatening to raise taxes.
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