Is Paul LePage the most influential politician in Maine?
Nope. Not even close.
LePage may be popular with those chuds who refuse to wear masks, are already declaring they won’t be vaccinated against COVID-19, and always miss a few loops when putting on their belts. In the near future, most of LePage’s base is going to get sick and die from the virus or be embarrassed to death when their pants end up around their ankles.
LePage and his acolytes are taking credit for former state Rep. Dale Crafts’ victory in the Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat. They claim the GOP ex-governor’s endorsement lifted Crafts out of obscurity and propelled him to a solid win over two other candidates.
Crafts didn’t actually get a majority of the ballots cast in the first round, so, by state law, the race had to be decided by ranked-choice voting. But Republicans hate ranked-choice, so they urged the other candidates to concede and endorse Crafts.
Former LePage press secretary Adrienne Bennett, the runner-up, agreed, but ex-state Sen. Eric Brakey, the last-place finisher, said he’d only give his endorsement if Crafts promised to vote to end “unconstitutional wars.” To date, Crafts has ignored that demand. Brakey, who had previously called Crafts and Bennett “corporate socialists,” effectively ended his political career in Maine with those tirades.
Back to ranked-choice.
Many Brakey voters didn’t use it. They only voted for their guy with no second selection. Those loyalists got an unpleasant surprise when the final tally was announced. Their votes didn’t count. In order to produce what appears to be a majority winner, ranked-choice requires any ballot that doesn’t contain a vote for one of the top two finishers – Crafts or Bennett – to be discarded.
Crafts was declared the majority winner of the primary, based not on the total number of votes cast, but on those that remained in play after the Brakey-or-nobody ballots were shipped off to the recycling center.
With LePage’s awesome influence backing him up, Crafts managed to get the nomination thanks to a voting system the GOP thinks is repulsive and keeps trying to repeal. Much more than LePage, ranked-choice made him the pick of this weak litter.
At least recent Florida resident LePage can claim he endorsed the winner in that contest. When it came to legislative races, his record was less impressive.
LePage supported former state Sen. Doug Thomas of Ripley in the state Senate District 4 race in Piscataquis County. Ripley got trounced by the incumbent, Rep. Paul Davis of Sangerville. LePage’s effect: not detectable by even the most sensitive instruments.
In Senate District 7 in Hancock County, LePage threw his support behind John Linnehan of Ellsworth, whose campaign slogan was “Make America Godly Again.” Former legislator Brian Langley, also of Ellsworth, buried Linnehan by a margin of nearly 3-to-1. LePage’s influence: considerably less than godlike.
Senate District 8 stretches from the Bangor suburbs to the coast. Incumbent Republican Sen. Kim Rosen of Bucksport annoyed LePage while he was still in office, even though she supported his positions more than 90 percent of the time because she occasionally refused to back his more absurd attempts to render state government inoperative. LePage attempted to gain revenge by giving his blessing to state Rep. Larry Lockman of Amherst, best known for his long history of racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic comments.
Lockman made it closer than any sensible person would have thought, but couldn’t quite pull it off. How much credit does LePage deserve? No more than could be bundled up in a tattered Confederate flag.
As the ex-governor continues to strut around the state proclaiming his intention of running again in 2022, his showing in the 2020 primary ought to give his fanatical followers pause. Even in conservative parts of Maine, it turned out that being anointed by LePage proved to be a negligible electoral advantage.
His time may have come and gone. At least, we can hope so.
My time for this week has also come and gone, but you can still email me at [email protected].