I have purposely avoided weighing in on politics for some time now. However, I can’t help but share some thoughts on the state of my state, and more specifically my governor’s re-election chances. As I survey the current political landscape in Augusta, Proverbs 16:18 comes to mind:
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Maine voters took a chance on Paul R. LePage, the relatively unknown Waterville mayor, in 2010. While he was known as a brash, no-nonsense guy, he ran as a consensus builder who could “break up the gridlock in Augusta and get things done” like he did at the city level and as head of Mardens. He sold me from day one, or to parody the movie Jerry McGuire, “he had me at bull semen” (you had to be there to know what I mean).
However, this year’s budget battle, combined with the melee surrounding the debate, could likely come at great political cost to the governor. Maine people, for the most part, despise partisan gridlock- regardless of which party is causing it. A bipartisan solution was put forward that would ease a significant burden on local municipalities (and as a direct result the wallet of property tax payers like you and me). Even some Democrats had a hard time stomaching this compromise because it kept in place the 2011 income tax cuts championed by the governor. But because this solution proposes a temporary half percent increase in the state sales tax, and 1 percent increase in the meals and lodging tax to help meet our obligations, the governor followed through on his veto threat.
I understand his aversion tax increases — even if they’re proposed as temporary. But let’s not forget members of his own party worked diligently to help craft this compromise. So what about that campaign promise again? Reduce the gridlock in Augusta? A government shutdown would definitely be failure on that front.
Regardless, some Republicans joined the Democratic majority to override the Governor’s veto in resounding fashion, thereby avoiding the looming state shutdown.
All the budget specifics aside, despite my early and zealous support of candidate LePage, there has been an undertone to his administration that has always made me a bit uncomfortable, and harder to ignore and defend with each successive instance. It can be summarized as a lack of humility and civility that his public persona continually portrays. It is now obvious this has not gone unnoticed by Republican leadership. Shortly after successfully overriding LePage’s veto, the Portland Press Herald publish a scathing Op-Ed written by Republican Senator Roger Katz. On the floor of the House chamber, Republican leader Kenneth Fredette joined in with a not so veiled reference to tactics employed by the governor in party politics- equating them to “circular firing squads.”
This lack of civility has time and time again boiled to the surface- of which his detractors have documented extensively- and is ill-befitting someone who is in a position where one is supposed to serve as a role model. Perhaps no greater an example than his recent diatribe directed at State Senator Troy Jackson:
“Sen. Jackson claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”
LePage added, “This man is a bad person. He doesn’t only have no brains, he has a BLACK HEART.”
And he concluded, “People like Troy Jackson, they ought to go back in the woods and cut trees and let somebody with a brain come down here and do some work.”
Oh my. Really Governor? “No brains and a black heart?” Is this a school house or the State House?
I rarely (if ever) agree with the Maine Democrats, but their tweet pretty much sums up my sentiments concerning this most recent outburst:
@MaineDems: LePage is ME’s highest elected official & he’s making comments any 14 year-old wld know are out of line.
The tide has turned on the governor. Regrettably, it has gone out on him, leaving him stranded with only his most ardent and stubborn supporters. His governing style does not bode well for his re-election chances in 2014. As a hands-on and all out supporter of his 2010 bid, and a quiet backer ever since, I’m honestly having a hard time determining if I would be disappointed with his defeat.
It’s obvious recent events are taking a toll on LePage as well, as he announced today that he is considering not seeking re-election. He claims this budget will make things beyond repair in this state. Perhaps going out on his own terms will be the best way to save face, and his place in Maine history will indeed be “a tale of one term.”
But if he does move forward with a re-election bid, and barring an unexpected defeat from a primary challenger, I would still vote for the governor in 2014. I fit a voting block that has no choice given the crop of likely candidates. Unfortunately for the governor, I am the minority in Maine. To win in this state you have to build bridges, not burn them. Look at what happened to the Republican gains of 2010. They were completely reversed in 2012. Whether you attribute those loses to LePage or not, one must concede his popularity with the average Maine voter has suffered much the same fate.
So if I still plan to vote for the governor, why write a piece like this? Well, that answer doesn’t come lightly- especially considering I call some people in his inner circle friends.
First, I doubt anything I write will have absolutely any impact on the election results. Nothing I’ve written here is any secret to anyone aside from those closest to LePage who might be blinded by sincere loyalty. I expect this piece to have little impact than to temporarily increase my popularity with the #MEPolitics hash tag in the Twitter-verse. The purpose of this blog is to weigh in on current events and life in general from a Christian perspective. It’s not intended to be about politics. But the Governor said, without hesitation and with pride bubbling out of his forehead, that Senator Jackson has “a black heart.” When someone claims to know a person’s heart, and casts it in such a negative light, it’s hard to ignore the spiritual implications of such a statement.
Second, especially with the governor up in the air on seeking re-election, I believe the time is ideal for a Republican primary challenger to throw his or her hat into the ring. A well known candidate (Senator Roger Katz, for example) could give the governor a run for his money in the GOP Primary. At the very least, it would make those in his camp work a little harder to earn the respect of the disgruntled GOP voter. So, with whatever platform this BDN blog affords me, I’d like to publicly encourage anyone considering a primary run against LePage to jump in and do it. And if multiple candidates jump in, then we’d be all the better for it as a party.
An interesting side note, if the governor does decide to throw in the towel, I wouldn’t be surprised if Senator Susan Collins comes back home and pursues her dream to be Maine Governor. 2014 would be exactly 20 years after her defeat to Angus King in 1994 where she lost a close 3-way race that also included Joe Brennan. However, she would likely have more trouble winning a crowded GOP primary than the general election.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s my desire to stand on principle. Since 2010, I have grown significantly in my Christian journey. A major command of Christianity is to walk in humility. A complaint with President Obama is he and his administration lack this same characteristic. One might say you can’t successfully lead or govern and be humble, but I beg to differ. Skipping ahead a few verses in chapter 16 of Proverbs we find this:
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 16:25
A path that seems right to man may not be the path we ought to take. It has been said that pride is the root of all sin- the source of all of humankind’s problems. Therefore, I question any leader that disregards any sense of humility- whether it be the President or my state’s governor and party leader.
To live counter-culturally (the theme of this blog) is to at least try to walk in ways honoring to God. Therefore, with a humble spirit I publish this article with the hope it will be received with that same spirit and the Governor’s overall tone can be modified in time for the 2014 campaign season. I’m sure there are other supporters of the Maine Republican brand that share my sentiments.
Now, with the above rant behind me, I shall go back to NOT writing about politics (for now).