U.S. House of Representatives: Chellie Pingree
Two years ago, The Bollard offered no endorsement for the seat representing Maine’s 1st Congressional District. Although Democrat Chellie Pingree’s positions more closely mirrored our values than those of her challenger, Pingree’s unwillingness to be honest about her personal relationship with hedge fund manager and big-time political contributor S. Donald Sussman made us doubt her integrity.
Well, here we are again. The controversy over Pingree’s trips aboard Sussman’s private jet has thrust their relationship into the spotlight. Facing allegations that her jet-setting lifestyle may have run afoul of House ethics rules, Pingree’s campaign belatedly and unconvincingly announced that she and Sussman are engaged, and have been for most of her term in office.
Like every other politician, Pingree’s happy to dish out those details of her personal life that make her look good on the campaign trail, but when less flattering facts get probed, she decries an invasion of her privacy. Let’s clear up one such incident right now.
“It seems these are politically motivated attacks on my personal life,” Pingree told the Press Herald last month. “For the three years I’ve been dating Donald, every opponent I’ve had has tried to make him an issue. We’ve had people who skulk around, who follow us home at night and knock on our door.”
That’d be yours truly, Bollard editor Chris Busby, a.k.a. “the skulker.” Chellie, first off, I had no “political motivation” to follow you and The Other Donald back to your love nest on Munjoy Hill that night (see “Chasing Chellie,” July 2008). Secondly, after your campaign repeatedly insisted you had no connection to that property on Kellogg Street, now you’re referring to it as your home? And thirdly, I decided to knock on your door because Sussman had left the light on in the pickup parked in the driveway. I was being neighborly, not nosey. (OK, maybe a little nosey, but mostly neighborly.)
Anyway, back to this year’s endorsement. The real concern about Pingree’s personal integrity was that her relationship with Sussman would compromise her votes on matters affecting his business interests and political causes. We’ve seen no evidence of that.
To the contrary, Pingree has backed bills to close tax loopholes for hedge fund managers and increase regulatory oversight of the financial industry. Pingree’s Republican opponent, Dean Scontras, has pointed out that Sussman’s fund indirectly received $200 million of federal bailout money through its business with AIG, but Pingree never supported the Wall Street bailout.
Pingree may be weaseling about the circumstances of her private life, but her public life has been honorable during her first term in Congress. The Bollard endorses her bid for a second term.
Oh, and belated congrats on your engagement.
Governor of Maine: Libby Mitchell
The Bollard endorses Libby Mitchell to be Maine’s next governor, the first woman to ever lead our state.
Mitchell, a Democrat, was first elected to the Legislature in 1974. She’s had nine two-year terms in the House (including a stint as Speaker) and three in the Senate, where she currently serves as President.
That’s nearly a quarter century in the trenches of Augusta (more if you add in her time heading the Maine State Housing Authority). We shudder to contemplate the hundreds of brutally boring committee meetings she’s sat through over the years, the thousands of bone-dry reports she’s read, the excruciating hours after hours spent listening to colleagues pontificate from the podium.
And then to think that every other year she’s had to slog through her district trying to convince voters to send her back for more of this public servitude?
Seriously, Mitchell has served Maine with a dedication few have matched. She deserves to hold the state’s highest office.
We agree with Mitchell’s positions on most issues, though it’s disappointing her campaign didn’t respond to our request for more information. Frankly, Mitchell’s campaign has been a let-down in general: uninspiring and, in some respects, just plain lazy (where are all the roadside campaign signs?).
Mitchell is not an ideal candidate. As a leader of her party during recent years when it’s had control of the Blaine House and the Legislature, she rightly deserves a share of the blame for state government’s problems. State agencies and departments can and should be more cost-conscious and citizen-friendly. There are too many regulations, tax exemptions and nanny-state laws on the books. And state lawmakers have made plenty of boneheaded budgetary decisions — like leasing the wholesale liquor business — while Mitchell’s been among them.
We can understand why many Mainers find Eliot Cutler a preferable alternative. Cutler is smart, worldly and savvy, a political outsider more willing than Mitchell to shake things up in Augusta.
Cutler’s willingness to run for office is commendable, but his record of public service pales in comparison to Mitchell’s. If he’s still keen to serve the public after Nov. 2, Cutler would make a fine advisor to the governor, or chairman of a task force, or commissioner of economic development.
Yes, in the early 1970s, Cutler worked for Sen. Edmund Muskie on landmark environmental legislation like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. But soon after that, as a lawyer in private practice, he was representing shopping mall developers at a time when malls were exacerbating the problems of sprawl, increasing air pollution and hastening the death of downtown business districts. Cutler’s spent most of his subsequent career litigating for and against big public works projects — always working in his client’s interest, not necessarily the public’s.
But the most compelling reason to vote for Mitchell over Cutler is Paul LePage. Cutler has simply not been able to garner enough support to be a contender in this race. Mitchell has two-to-three times as many voters in her corner, and she still may fall short. She’ll need every vote she can get.
Like it or not, politics often comes down to strategy. The threat of a reckless and regressive LePage administration far surpasses the nit-picky differences between Mitchell’s and Cutler’s approaches to governing. Mainers who want to live in a progressive, tolerant and responsible state must set minor policy differences aside and back the stronger of the two candidates who embody those values: Libby Mitchell.
State ballot Question 1: No
If it’s November in Maine, it must be time to vote on another ballot question asking us to authorize casino gambling. The answer this year is still no.
Once again, it’s not so much the idea of slot machines and table games that makes the measure a bad bet. It’s the crooked details behind the wording of the question.
In this case, approval of a casino in the western Maine town of Oxford would also prohibit any other gaming facility from opening within 100 miles. That would make most of southern Maine a no-casino zone. So much for fair play.
We continue to find it hypocritical that lawmakers who decry the evils of casinos tacitly endorse the state’s aggressive marketing of scratch-ticket crack and lottery tickets. As The Bollard reported in our Winter 2007 issue (“Casinos: Why Not?”), gambling is pervasive throughout the state, be it legal, illegal, online or under the table.
If you want to throw away your money, it’s not our place to stop you. But when blackjack and poker turn into a 100-mile game of Monopoly, we don’t want to roll the dice.
Portland ballot Question 1: No
Portland voters should reject the ballot measure that would create a directly elected, full-time mayor chosen by ranked choice voting.
The mayoral duties included in this proposal are only slightly different than those the mayor has under the current system. Mayors appointed by the city council already take part in performance reviews of the city manager, city clerk and city attorney. They already lead workshops on city goals and priorities, work with the city manager to implement policies, help craft the annual budget, make committee appointments, etc.
The only significant changes this measure would make are to give the mayor veto power over the budget (subject to an override by a super-majority of six councilors), make the position a four-year (rather than one-year) term, and pay the mayor $60,000 more than the job currently earns.
The veto provision is unnecessary and more than a little ridiculous. The city budget is drafted by the city manager and department heads over the course of several months, then scrutinized by councilors during a series of public meetings. It’s an open, collaborative process. Why inject this element of political drama? If five councilors want to adjust a line in the budget, it gets changed. If not, everyone moves on. Giving one member the power to reject the whole plan may be good for public access television ratings, but it’s bad for the people of Portland.
The measure’s proponents tout the idea that a directly elected, full-time mayor will have a lot more clout when representing the city at the state or federal level.
As Governor-almost-elect Paul LePage would say, that’s “bullshit.”
Are we to expect that a governor or senator will cave in to our mayor’s demands on some issue for fear of losing the support of Portland voters who elected this mayor (many of whom, thanks to ranked choice voting, wanted someone else to lead the city, anyway?). Please.
What are we really buying with our additional $60,000? Is the aura of authority worth that much public money, especially during a time when the city is cutting budgets for public safety and schools?
If you want leadership, elect a councilor who has a vision for the city and the political skills necessary to earn the support of enough colleagues to get things done. You can’t buy ideas and political savvy. We need to expect more, not pay more, to have the city government we desire.