Maine Politics

From the Piscataqua to the St. John

Monday, May 30, 2005

32 softly-focused, brightly-colored eyes

Jay Thomas Aubin - Skowhegan

Beau R. Beaulieu - Lisbon

Christopher Cash - Old Orchard

Christopher D. Coffin - Kennebunk

Daniel Francis J. Cunningham - Lewiston

Thomas J. Dostie - Sommerville

Christopher D. Gelineau - Portland

Erik A. Halvorsen - Richmond

Jeremiah J. Holmes - North Berwick

Michael D. Jones - Unity

Brian Matthew Kennedy - Port Clyde

Heath A. McMillin - Biddeford

Lynn Robert Poulin Sr. - Freedom

Lawrence A. Roukey - Westbrook

Sharon Swartworth - Litchfield

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Long Knives

Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe inspire a lot of distrust and opposition from Democrats and moderates in Maine, especially with their recent votes on issues such as war, tax cuts, Gonzales, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the bankruptcy bill, to name a few (and we'll most likely be adding a vote for Bolton to that list in the near future). But when discussing the Senators with those on the left, you're more likely to hear disappointment than anger.

The same isn't true for those on the conservative right (thankfully a small minority in this state). Any discussion of Snowe and Collins seems to begin and end with seething hatred. The nicest name they usually get called is "traitor".

While discussing the nuclear option compromise, MB recently linked to a discussion on the right-wing bulletin board "As Maine Goes" that perfectly illustrates this point.

This hatred isn't a recent development. In fact, those on the far-right (and those on AMG in particular, whom Al Diamon describes as a "dozen or so right-wing nuts"), have long been airing their strong feelings about the Senators, a fact that has caused some trouble even within the Republican party apparatus itself.
Which brings us to Scott Fish, the top PR flack for Maine Republicans in Augusta for most of the 1990s. GOP House Leader Tom Murphy fired Fish last week for exercising "questionable judgment" in his after-hours editorship of "As Maine Goes," the conservative Web site. Fish's crime was not moving fast enough to remove vulgar e-mail postings by several readers who characterized Sen. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as women of loose virtue because they voted against removing Clinton from office.
- Bangor Daily News, January 12, 2000

Most recently, this hatred has led to an effort among national right-wing bloggers to halt donations to the NRSC for fear that some money might go to moderate Senators. Snowe and Collins are often mentioned by name.

It has also led to the possible candidacy here in Maine of ultra-conservative Brian Duprey of Hampden who wants to challenge Snowe in next year's Republican Senate primary. A recent Roll Call article (which I haven't read) apparently reports that Duprey is still exploring a run.

In Maine, this heat from the right is electoral gold for Snowe and Collins. It gives them the political cover they need among independents and moderates to continue supporting the Republican agenda on a wide range of issues and allows them to help maintain GOP control of the Senate. Their incumbency and name recognition are enough to squash most challengers and the angry clamor from the right makes it hard for even a dynamic, progressive Democratic candidate (see Pingree, Chellie) to differentiate themselves enough in the public eye.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Heads to Full Legislature

The Judiciary Committee split along party lines on friday with 7 votes against the constitutional amendment and 5 in support. The proposal, originally sponsored by Rep. Brian Duprey (R-Homophobia), has been changed to eliminate a ban on civil unions and now conatins only a single sentence: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions."

The amendment will now go to the House and Senate where a 2/3rds majority in each body would be required in order to send it to a statewide referendum. The measure will likely be defeated with a mostly party-line vote, just as a similar amendment submitted by Duprey was last year.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Baldacci's Numbers Down

A new Critical Insights poll finds Baldacci's favorability slipping to 29%. That's down from even the surprising 37% seen in the Survey USA poll earlier this month.
Baldacci told reporters that he´s not concerned about the falling numbers, and said they´re not surprising given the tough challenges the state is facing.

"Polls go up and down. They come and go," he said.

For the survey, Critical Insights called 600 Mainers by telephone from May 12-19 asking their opinions of Bush, Baldacci, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points/

According to the poll, Bush's ratings among Mainers are 31% favorable, 53% unfavorable, and 16% with no opinion. Here's how the local pols stacked up:

Baldacci 29/37/34
Snowe 65/13/22
Collins 58/16/26
Allen 43/17/40
Michaud 29/11/60

People seem to like Snowe and are just getting to know Michaud. Interestingly, the internals show both Snowe and Collins get higher ratings from Independents and Democrats than Republicans.

The real news in this poll, however, is definitely the drop for Baldacci. Even his job approval rating is down, with 43% approving, 45% showing disapproval and 12% undecided. Surprisingly, his numbers are actually worse among his former congressional constituents in the 2nd CD.

The BRAC closure list came out on the second day of polling, and that may have had some effect on these numbers, also Baldacci has a high undecided rate and his favorables will likely rise as the squabbling over the budget recedes. These results, however, definitely open the door a crack for Baldacci's Republican challengers in '06, disorganized as they may be. A strong Green Party challenge (most likely from Pat Lamarche) may also help the GOP.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, May 27, 2005

On the TeeVee

You might have seen me on WABI yesterday at the Social Security Works press conference. I wanted my soundbite to speak to the importance of Social Security for people my age. Here's what I said:
Social Security is not an investment program, it's a safety net and it needs to be strong. Any cut in benefits, any compromise that weakens the system undermines this program and breaks the promise that has been made to my generation.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Heath vs. Strimling

According to the Christian Civic League, there wil be a televised debate between Michael Heath and Senator Ethan Strimling on gay rights in Maine. It will be broadcast on Monday at 7:30 on Portland public access.

In my opinion, any time Heath's bigotry is exposed in a public forum it helps the cause of equal rights.

Visit the new Maine Politics.


Free lunches and extra pay. It's good to be a legislator.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Off Base

Al Diamon gives 9 reasons why the reccomended BRAC closings in Maine could be a good thing. My favorite:
9. The announcement that the state had been body-slammed by the Department of Defense finally accomplished something the war in Iraq, the privatization of Social Security, the Florida right-to-die debacle, and the federal deficit couldn’t manage. For one night, the Bush apologists in my local bar shut up.

That’s got to be worth something.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Weekend Round-Up

There was a lot of good news this weekend. In the Senate, Snowe and Collins inked a deal to diffuse the nuclear option. (For some great Maine-based discussion of the filibuster compromise, check out Wampum and Alna) In the House, Allen and Michaud overcame the Republican majority and helped to lift the ban on stem cell research. Also, a painting of Maine Senator George Mitchell was unveiled in the old Senate chamber.
Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, praised Mitchell's legislative legacy, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, the "Brady bill" on gun control and amendments to the Clean Air Act. "He's one of the greatest figures in Maine political history," Allen said.

In the statehouse, Duprey's nuisance bill was finally killed by a unanimous vote of the judiciary committee. Baldacci is also leaning towards vetoing a huge new racino proposed for Washington county.

The one bit of bad news seems to be the announcement from Moody's that it has downgraded the state's general obligation bonds from Aa2 to Aa3. The report cites both the bonds in the budget and the referendum effort to overturn them as reasons for the reassessment. This news comes despite the effort by Democrats on Tuesday to identify possible budget cuts by asking state agencies to plan out what a 5% cut would mean for their operational budget.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

In Canada for the Weekend

Blogging resumes on Tuesday.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Green Inroads in Portland

PPH PhotoWith Eder as the highest-ranked Green in the country and with Portland having the second-highest Green presence on a school board anywhere in the U.S., it's obvious that the Green Independent party has some support in Maine's largest city.
Sive Neilan, head of the Portland Democratic City Committee, said the Greens are making inroads in city politics because they run effective campaigns. "They really have that piece of the politic down."

She said voters who are frustrated with the lack of new ideas in the national Democratic Party tend to mistakenly view Democrats here in the same light.

Yet, she said, Portland Democrats have long led progressive causes. "They have fought the right causes for a very long time, but people new to politics equate us with the people in Washington, and that is simply not the case."

One example, she said, was a Democratic candidate whose environmental record was stronger than the Green candidate's.

She said the election of five Greens to office in Portland - Portland Water District trustee Erek Gaines is the fifth - has been a wake-up call to Portland Democrats who had grown complacent. She said the Greens are galvanizing voters and are showing Democrats that they are losing their political hold.

"The Democrats, in a sense, do not own the city any more," she said.

In addition to recent local success, the Greens have played a role in several major races in Maine. The congressional candidacy of Jonathan Carter was potentially responsible for a Democratic loss in the 1992 2nd CD election when Olympia Snowe narrowly beat Pat McGowan (imagine if Snowe could have been stopped then) and the Greens were also seen as spoilers during the 1994 Gubernatorial race when Carter received 6.4% and Independent Angus King defeated Democrat Joe Brennan 35.4% to 33.8% (Republican Susan Collins got 23%). The Greens of course claim that they take votes from both parties and independents and do not act as spoilers for Democratic candidates.

In the most recent house elections there were two races in which Green voters may have tipped the balance in favor of the Republicans. In district 46 (Camden and Rockport) Democrat Susan Dorr lost to Republican Stephen Bowen by 254 votes while Green Independent Marc Bedner garnered 405. In district 78 (Oakland and Sydney) Republican Robert Nutting beat Democrat Dennis McLellen by a margin of 152 votes and Green Independent Theresa Savage received 604.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Stupidest Bill: Yet Another Nominee

Despite the fact that current sex education programs are reducing the teenage pregnancy rate in Maine, abortions are down and safe-sex is up, Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello wants to scrap the current curriculum in favor of "abstinence-only" education.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Shallow Bench

Al Diamon today examines the GOP prospects for a 2006 gubernatorial candidate and doesn't find much. Those that might do well, such as Susan Collins and Peter "redo" Cianchette don't want to run and those who do want to run, like the oft-defeated former congressman David Emery and second-term state Rep. Darlene Curley don't have a chance.

Then there's Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis who both doesn't want and can't win the Blaine house according to Diamon.
Davis has admitted to friends he’s unlikely to beat Baldacci and is only considering a run to make sure the party has some kind of candidate.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Baldacci Leads Charge to Save Bases

The effort is getting underway to save some of the estimated 12,000 jobs these closings would cost the state. Via the AP:
Preparing for "a major battle," Gov. John Baldacci said he will meet Thursday with members of Maine and New Hampshire congressional delegations to sketch out a coordinated plan to fight the base closure proposals facing three communities [...]

Baldacci said he wants a coordinated campaign with the affected communities unified under the state's umbrella, working closely with the state's four-member congressional delegation to turn around the curtailment plan.

"You don't want divisions, you don't want factions," the governor said, adding that Maine's delegation of U.S. senators and congressmen will lead the effort.

"What I'm trying to do is get Maine organized. This is a major battle," Baldacci said.

From the KJ/MS:
Baldacci continued to insist Tuesday that "we owe it to our country" to fight for the Maine bases in the interest of national security. But he said the economic impact "is also going to be argued almost on the same level" of importance because the job losses that Maine faces are second only to those proposed in Alaska, on a per-capita basis.

The governor said he will travel to Washington, D.C., Thursday to meet with the Maine and New Hampshire congressional delegations to "finalize the plan" for saving the Maine bases.

He said he will use that trip to make courtesy calls on some members of the base-closing commission, which is chaired by Anthony Principi.

Baldacci said Principi has promised to tour the Maine bases with some members of the nine-member closure commission, but details of that visit have not yet been set [...]

"My total focus right now is to make sure that those bases stay open," Baldacci said, noting that roughly 15 percent of the Pentagon's recommendations in previous rounds of closures have been overturned. "We want to make sure we get our fair share of that 15 percent," he said.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More Hot Filibuster Action

The issue is now being debated on C-SPAN 2 and will most likely continue for the rest of the week. Leahy just made an impassioned and eloquent speech in defense of the Senate and the filibuster.

Also today, students at Bates are wrapping up their own 24-hour filibuster to protest the nuclear option. They are emulating the work of Princeton students who filibustered for 384 hours last week, first in front of the Frist building on their campus and then in front of the capitol building in Washington.

The Princeton filibuster website has announced that students at Umaine at Orono will begin a mock filibuster on Monday.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Mushroom Clouds

It appears likely that Frist will begin debate on one of the filibustered judicial nominees tomorrow, paving the way for the nuclear option to be deployed soon after.

Olympia Snowe will most likely stand against it and the KJ/MS urges Collins to do the same. The BDN worries that they might both cave on this or other issues as Bush uses the closure of Maine military bases to enact political blackmail. It should be an interesting week.

For all your nuclear updates, keep an eye on DailyKos. (Here's a good post to start with).

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tobin Claims Jury Biased

James Tobin, a Bangor native and leading Republican operative who is being charged with masterminding a campaign to block democratic phone lines during the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election is challenging the indictments against him on the basis that some members of the grand jury were Democrats. His attorneys are arguing that only a panel made up of all Republicans can legally indict him since his alleged crime made all Democrats in NH his "victims".

It looks like the trial itself will also be highly politicized. From the AP:
James Tobin also wants to know whether they´re Democrats, Republicans or independents and whether they watch TV shows such as "West Wing," CNN´s "Crossfire," MSNBC´s "Hardball," or "The McLaughlin Group," which mostly runs on public television stations.

Those questions are part of a proposed jury pool questionnaire for Tobin´s trial on charges he conspired to jam Democrats´ get-out-the-vote phones on Election Day 2002, as well as a ride-to-the-polls line run by the Manchester firefighters union.

"You don´t have to do research to know that someone who likes "West Wing" isn´t going to like these defendants," said Patricia McEvoy, a Chicago jury consultant[...]

The proposed questionnaire asks prospective jurors about union membership, whether they´ve ever had a bumper sticker on their car and what it said, what Web logs they read, and whether the take part in online chat groups.

Tobin´s lawyers also want jurors to describe themselves by checking off all that apply: "aggressive, articulate, emotional, entrepreneurial, intelligent, laid back, loyal, naive, perceptive, stubborn, (or) other."

That's right, Tobin is trying to pack a jury with Republicans and hope they let him off purely on ideological grounds. I guess it wasn't enough just to pervert our electoral system, it looks like he's going after the judicial system now as well.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Christian Civic League Wants Stephen King Out of Maine's Schools

In the CCL newsletter today, Michael Heath claims that Maine's most famous writer is encouraging "moral anarchy" and working to destroy our society.
[H]ow can schools blame students for learning what schools have tried so hard to teach – that man’s darker urges are to be gratified vicariously through “literature” which promotes violence and moral anarchy? After all, wasn’t King invited to speak at the University of Maine graduation? King’s work is a part of the public schools, in the same sense that wholesome literature was part of the public schools in the not-too-distant past. People have forgotten that as late as the fifties, an evangelist would visit the public schools of Aroostook County each week to present a one-hour Bible lesson.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Mitchell on the Nuclear Option

BDN Op-Ed:
During my six years as majority leader of the Senate, Republicans, then in the minority, often used filibusters to achieve their goals.

I didn’t like the results, but I accepted them because Republicans were acting within the rules; and we were able to work together on many other issues. There were 55 Democratic senators then. We had the power to take the drastic action now being proposed, but we refrained from exercising that power because it was as wrong then as it is now.

Most Americans may not be aware of the complexities of the Senate’s rules, but they do know and understand two fundamental principles: playing by the rules and dealing fairly with others.

The nuclear option violates both. If it’s exercised, I hope that enough modern-day Sen. Smiths, guided by what is best for the nation and the Senate, will vote to stop it.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

GOP Flying in Reinforcements

The Republican party announced Friday that they are flying in a team of professional signature gatherers from California to help out their budget veto campaign. In California, the huge number of referendum issues has made signature gathering big business and there are many companies that specialize in the practice. This will definitely be a boost to the effort to get enough signatures by July but it places the veto campaign squarely in the realm of a politicians' maneuver rather than a movement of the people.

Still no specific plan on what the GOP wants to do with the budget hole if their referendum passes. One idea they have floated recently is a 5% across-the-board reduction in state government

So will we have a partisan fight over part 2 of the budget and then over bonds and then the uncertainty of a referendum campaign, a lowered bond rating and state finances in disarray with partisan bickering increasing as the 2006 gubernatorial race draws closer, or will the parties and politicians come together much like this recent editorial suggests? The next few days and weeks should be decisive.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Political Bases

PPH PhotoMilitary bases in Maine have long been a political issue. For decades, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other installations have been targeted for closure and it has often been the strength of the state's congressional delegation that has saved them. Muskie, Mitchell, and Cohen have all played crucial roles in this regard.

Cohen, interestingly enough, later changed his position on BRAC and ran the base closing initiative for the Clinton administration. The former Secretary of State has most recently worked as a consultant in Florida helping to keep their bases open (Florida is slated to gain military jobs from the recommendations released Friday).

In 1994, Olympia Snowe won her Senate seat in large part because she was seen as more likely to preserve Maine's military bases than fellow House member Tom Andrews who had voted for a BRAC list that included Loring Air Force Base.

Now PNS is being targeted for total closure, BNAS is scheduled to lose all its aircraft and half its personnel, and the Defense accounting center in Limestone is also slated to be eliminated for a total combined loss of almost 7,000 jobs. This is the second highest number of jobs lost by any state in the country under this list (Connecticut is losing slightly more) and will hit Maine incredibly hard.

There is a tendency to assign political motives to the choice of bases to be closed. Many have commented on the fact that "blue" states are slated to lose jobs while "red" states gain from this list, others believe that the Maine closings are a not-so-subtle prod from the Bush administration to get Maine's Republican Senators in line with White House objectives. The high level of political maneuvering that has historically accompanied base closures gives some weight to these ideas.

In any case, the political fallout from these closures may be high. Senator Snowe has perhaps the most to lose. She has often portrayed herself as a Washington insider who could use her connections to preserve Maine's bases and these closures could make her seem politically impotent.

The list isn't yet final. It will be reviewed by an independent 9-member commission which can make some changes before it goes to the President for an up-or-down decision and then Congress for an up-or-down vote. Workers, community leaders, state politicians and Maine's entire congressional delegation have pledged to fight to preserve these bases.

Check out this PPH article for reactions from Allen, Michaud, Collins and Snowe and this one for reactions from Baldacci and state legislators.

Update MPBN, as is usually the case, has excellent coverage.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Bases and Doctors and Californians, Oh My.

All that coming soon, for now check out this interesting article on the role of Senate Republican moderates from the NY Times.

I enjoyed this bit:
But here in the Capitol, [moderates'] numbers are so few, said Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, that they quit having their weekly lunches about a year ago.

"Susan and I were there alone for so much of the time," Mr. Specter he said, referring to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, "we worked through all of our conversation and decided to disband."

Visit the new Maine Politics.


Tomorrow should be an interesting day. The base closures will be announced at 9:15 and state Republicans say they'll be publicly addressing the concerns about their veto attempt sometime around then as well (things look hopeful for some kind of resolution). My plan for tomorrow is to head down to Augusta and sit in on the Judiciary committee hearings on the medical malpractice bill, then head back to Bangor to canvass on Social Security in the evening.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

One Last Blog

I don't know how I forgot to include Pudentilla's Perspective in my last roundup of Maine blogs. Go check that shit out.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Poll Finds Baldacci Down

A new Survey USA poll pegs Baldacci's approval rating at 37%. I'm sure that the budget debate and other issues have made a dent in his popularity, but I find it hard to believe that his numbers have dropped 30 points since the last poll in February.

Apparantly, I'm not alone. From the BDN:
Some pollsters in Maine also were skeptical of the SurveyUSA results. Patrick Murphy at Strategic Marketing Services in Portland released a poll in February that placed Baldacci’s job approval rating at 67.5 percent. Murphy questioned the methodology used in computerized telephone polling, saying, “I cannot fathom that kind of a drop” in Baldacci’s approval ratings.

Kevin Fay, at Critical Insights in Portland, shared similar concerns about the reliability of computer-based polling techniques and also found it hard to believe the governor’s approval rating could have taken such a dive.
“That’s the kind of thing you might expect if the state’s bond rating dropped to junk and there was complete gridlock over property tax reform and that basically nothing was working right,” Fay said.

Amy Fried, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said it was important to cross-reference the poll’s findings with any other existing surveys given the wide disparity in results over the four-month period. She added the Mother’s Day weekend also could have skewed the results.

“There’s some polling firms that won’t do polling over a big holiday because they can’t find a lot of folks,” she said.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Protecting Social Security

Today was the first day at my summer job as field manager for the Maine People's Alliance Bangor canvass. We're currently working on preventing Social Security privatization. If you've been reading this site for any length of time then you know this is an issue I feel very strongly about.

The fight over Social Security isn't just about guaranteeing people's benefits or making sure the program is there for younger workers, although these elements are vitally important. In a larger sense, it's about the contract we make with our fellow citizens to protect those who need it most. The fight over Social Security is about determining the future course of American public policy. The right-wing of this country is attacking the heart of the New Deal and attempting to break the promise we make as a nation to each succeeding generation.

The main thing one notices going door-to-door and discussing this issue with people is the near-uniform strident opposition to privatization. This isn't an issue that you need to explain in any great detail to people, and it isn't one that you need to work to get them riled up about. Mainers know the facts and they know where they stand. All you have to do is give them Snowe and Collins' numbers.

This summer I'll be writing updates from the field about this and other issues as we walk the streets of northern and central Maine.

If you haven't already made your voice heard on Social Security, check out the MPA website for the info (I know, the site could really use a re-design).

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


You may have read some Jon Bartholomew's comments here on Maine Politics. As the communications director for the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund, an organization that works with other advocacy groups to create progressive change in Maine, he has a unique perspective on many Maine issues. Now you can read Jon's words on the MCLF's own in-house blog. Let's hope it fares better than the Maine Democratic Party's weblog (may it rest in peace).

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Edwards to Work With Maine Democrats

From the AP:
Edwards at a UMaine rally in September (PPH Photo)Former vice presidential nominee John Edwards agreed Tuesday to help strengthen the Democratic presence in state legislatures, including Maine´s, by recruiting candidates and raising money.

"Far too often, people think that the solutions to the problems we face as a country must come from Washington, but much of the important work on the issues Americans face every day is done in the states," Edwards said in a prepared release. "State legislators can do a great deal to fight poverty, expand educational opportunities, and make health care more affordable."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Another Reason Why Maine Is Better Than the Rest of the Country

There will be a work session on Wednesday for LD 1026, An Act to Provide Uniform Voter Verification and Recount requirements for Voting Machines.

From the BDN:
The Legislature enacted a similar bill last year, but it contained a loophole. Advocates for the handicapped feared that insistence on a voter-verifiable paper trail, to permit recounts in cases of challenge, would interfere with demands that the new machines permit unassisted access by the sight-impaired and other handicapped persons. So last year's bill included an exemption from the paper-trail requirement for the machines specially designed for use by the handicapped.

The situation now is changed. Machines have been developed that provide both features, a verifiable paper trail and handicapped access. One example called AutoMARK is marketed by one of the major voting machine companies, Election Systems and Software. Others are in the works. So the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee should feel confident in going forward with a bill that would require both features in all machines.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Maine Blogs

The Alna Erratic provides "rants on politics, media, faith, and language" from Alna, Maine.

Cynical Groovitude examines politics, technology and hockey.

Maine Democrats (not affiliated with the Democratic Party) provides a "wicked handy" archive of Maine politics and legislation.

If you have a favorite Maine political weblog that isn't listed on the right, please let me know about it.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, May 09, 2005

League of Women Voters Convention

Sorry about the time it took me to get this up on the site, I had to change my scribbled notes into a more web-ready format.

This Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking at the Maine League of Women Voters' annual convention as the representative "blogger" on a media panel along with Liz Talbot, anchor and news director for WVII (ABC 7). Judy Meyer of the Lewiston Sun Journal was also scheduled to speak, but she had a family emergency.

I really enjoyed Ms. Talbot's remarks, especially during the question period as she explained the difficulties of running a modern local news department with a small staff, a tight schedule, and a small budget. In particular, she mentioned the difficulty of going beyond the he-said, she-said nature of political reporting and doing more objective analysis without a research department and other resources. Her biggest fear: being replaced by Wheel-of-Fortune.

The League members were incredibly hospitable and very interested in the subjects we were discussing. I met a lot of great people, a few of whom surprised me by relating that they were already readers of this blog. Thank you, Al Gore, for the internet.

Click here to read the rest of this post and my own thoughts on changing media trends and their relationship to political coverage.

(I began by describing Maine Politics and the basic idea of a blog. If you're reading this, you probably already know enough about that, so I'll jump right in to my thoughts on weblogs as a news medium. The following text was imported from word, so it might be missing a few apostrophes or have other typos.)

Today I want to talk about online political journalism on a more general level.

I don't think blogs will ever replace the mainstream press or any of that nonsense, but they are an incredible tool that can be used by anyone and reach everyone.

They are quick and dirty publishing platforms that allow you to communicate with a large audience in seconds. This results in a lot of interesting reading, but it results in a lot of misinformation and heated rhetoric as well.

There are two things that political weblogs are very good at. The first is discussing things that might not get coverage from larger media sources. The second is providing a means for collaborative activism.

To understand the importance of blogs as a media source, lets take a look at the recent history of political coverage.

50 years ago, in the Maine gubernatorial election of 1954, Edmund S. Muskie beat the Republican incumbent governor by using an attentive press to run an insurgent campaign and became the first Democrat to win state-wide office since the great depression. He did this despite an almost 3 to 1 Republican advantage in voter registration.

In his latest book on Maine elections, Chris Potholm, the Bowdoin College professor and political consultant discussed the press coverage of that election.

He writes:
Today it would be almost impossible to run the type of campaign that Muskie put together. The newspaper reporters of today - as well as their editors - simply would not cover the race they did earlier. For most Newspapers in Maine, political campaigns are not worth covering in their ebb and flow, only in the generic sense of press conferences and polls. [...]

While an AP or print reporter might take a one-day swing with a candidate to get the flavor of his or her campaign, no news organization would follow the candidate around as did the reporters in 1954. [...]

Regrettably, this print coverage is long gone in Maine politics and has been replaced by made-for-TV public appearances and the 30-second commercial. Newspaper editorials decry the high cost of campaigns and the overemphasis on television, but newspapers themselves are the major reason for these developments. They simply do not pay enough attention to campaigns to give their readers anything but the most epigonic of coverage.

Now I don't agree with Potholm that the blame for this lies solely with newspapers - there are many contributing factors, but this is an example of the kind of void that online journalism can fill.

By following campaigns closely, and by providing more detailed analysis, blogs are beginning to give interested readers the kind of coverage that short TV reports and limited column inches newspapers no longer provide.

You might have heard about the right-wing bloggers who hounded CBS and Dan Rather over the National Guard Memos, and eventually contributed to his resignation. But that's just one example of many.

For instance, recently, Microsoft announced that they were dropping their support for a gay rights law in Washington State. This came after evangelical Christians threatened a boycott of their products. This was reported in local media but got very little national attention.

A liberal blogger named John Aravosis, who runs a site called AmericaBlog and who gets about half a million visitors a week took up the cause and, along with others, doggedly pursued the story. He was able to get information from sources inside the company and posted daily reports on the situation detailing Microsoft's links to right-wing groups like the Christian coalition and their cynical political maneuvering on the issue. Some of his reporting made it into the mainstream press and Microsoft soon faced a backlash from the gay community.

Yesterday, they gave in and changed their position on the bill.

These kinds of stories highlight not just online journalism, but online activism as well, which is the second thing that blogs are exceptionally good at.

The reason for this is that the majority of people who choose to communicate about politics online do so because they feel very passionately one way or another. The journalism that occurs on blogs is nothing like the journalism in newspapers and on television for this reason. Its partisan and opinionated and passionate.

(I myself am a partisan Democrat, by the way, if you haven't figured that out yet.)

These passionate people can use blogs and other similar internet tools to create online communities and accomplish political objectives.

The best example of online passion turning into activism is the Presidential run of Howard Dean. His campaign reached out to the new netroots and found a motivated base of supporters who were able to organize themselves using the tools of the internet into a potent political force. They weren't able to win him the nomination, but they beat every other campaign in terms of contributions and volunteers.

A Maine example occurred in November when WGME in Portland, along with other TV stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, prepared to run a documentary biased against Senator Kerry just a few days before the election. You might remember how a dozen Maine businesses publicly dropped their advertising from WGME. The reason why was that several popular left-leaning internet communities including, the largest Democratic blog, organized a national phone and email campaign targeting Sinclair's advertisers. Sinclair eventually relented and replaced the program with a more balanced piece.

Weblogs aren't always a tool of the people, however. In South Dakota last year, during the hard-fought Senate race between Tom Daschle and John Thune, two Republican bloggers got national attention by making it their goal to change one aspect of the political dynamic of the state. They focused in on South Dakota's main newspaper, the Argus Leader, and began to attempt to influence their reporting.

They attacked most of the papers articles as biased and targeted the main political writer and his editors personally, claiming that they had ties to the incumbent Senator. They succeeded in creating controversy and making some very public attacks against Daschle.

After the election was over and Daschle was defeated, it was revealed that the two bloggers were actually paid operatives of the Thune campaign, a fact they had never disclosed. One of them had received $27,000 for his services.

In January it was reported that Thune had a meeting with other Republican Senators and urged them to explore using blogs in their own political campaigns. David Winston, a GOP pollster who was present, said that, "given that success story, the senators were very interested.... A lot of conversation went back and forth. I think we were scheduled for about an hour, and it went an hour and a half." Even senators who missed out on the session have been asking for details of Thune's story. "Other senators have asked him in private how he worked with the bloggers," says Thune spokesman Alex Conant.

Some have already taken his words to heart. The anonymous authors of a blog supporting the reelection of embattled Senator Conrad Burns of Montana were recently revealed to be a couple of Republican writers for the American Spectator who actually live no where near big sky country and are being paid to say nice things about Burns.

(I concluded my talk with the guarantee that blogs would play an increasing role in political journalism and activism and I outlined a new project I'm currently working on in this vein - stay tuned to the site for more information.)

Visit the new Maine Politics.


The Maine Democratic Party website now has a handy counter ticking off the seconds until end of business on May 13th, when Republicans will either submit an alternative plan for the budget or prove that their veto campaign has just been a cynical attempt to gain political advantage.

The counter on that site is in flash and is a bit unwieldy (and is squished in firefox), but it's easy enough to make your own. See the top of the page for an example of one that uses javascript.

To put a countdown on your own website, just copy this code:

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Calling out the GOP

Jim Brunelle today suggests that Republicans put up or shut up.
Sometime this week, we should learn whether legislative Republicans really do have a better way of assembling a state budget.

Or, are they simply content to sit on the sidelines, complain about the impotence of their minority status and take potshots at the budget document already pushed through by majority Democrats?

Republicans probably won't submit a specific plan, and this article in the PPH explains why.
For many Republicans, the debate over Baldacci's borrowing package - approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature in late March - has become a golden political opportunity to tarnish Baldacci's name and galvanize supporters heading into the 2006 governor's race.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Michaud on CAFTA

Go read his excellent piece on the effects this legislation could have on Maine and the nation.
Free trade is fine, but the people of Maine deserve fair trade. We deserve trade that does not cost us our jobs and our way of life.

That is why I have been opposing CAFTA; and I am not alone. Congress typically has voted within 55 days after President Bush has signed a trade agreement. But May 28th will mark the one-year anniversary of the President signing CAFTA. Why the long hold-up? Because Members of Congress from both parties are asking a lot of tough questions about this deal, and wondering if it will do anything good for America.

It doesn't take a trade expert to see the massive economic mismatch between the United States and the nations that make up the Central American Free Trade Agreement: Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The U.S. economy, with a $10 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2002, is 170 times larger than the economies of the CAFTA nations, at about $62 billion combined. To put this into perspective, the purchasing power of these nations is almost identical to the purchasing power of New Haven, Connecticut.

MyDD has more on the subject.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Hostile Hearing

A Sun Journal Editorial today takes a look at the tone of a public hearing on bills that would regulate the pollution level of the Androscoggin.
Rep. Tom Saviello, a staunch opponent of the bill and the environmental manager for a paper mill, and Rep. John Martin, another foe of the bill, were scornful of some of the people who felt strongly enough to take part in an already intense and intimidating public spectacle. At times Saviello badgered speakers, asking them questions that he knew the answers to just to make his point.

Observers saw the typical signs of patronization: The long sighs, exaggerated facial expressions and shaking heads you might expect from a middle school drama department's production of "Twelve Angry Men."

But it wasn't "Twelve Angry Men." By most accounts, there were only two. [...]

The uninitiated amateurs who went before Natural Resources hoping to help make the Androscoggin cleaner deserved to be treated with more respect.

Instead, they got a lesson in the hardball tactics legislators will use when they are trying to thwart legislation they don't like

Read more at the new Androscoggin River Alliance website:

On a related note, the SJ has begun posting its daily editorials in blog form. You can view them and leave comments here.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Bringing People Together

Thank you, Brian Duprey.
Activists on both sides of the abortion debate finally found something to agree on Thursday when they dismissed as trivial or irrelevant a bill that would outlaw abortion based on sexual orientation.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

This Week in Activism

If you want to help make Maine a better place, here are three things you can do over the next few days.

Maine Won't Discriminate voter ID canvass
When: Saturday, May 7th, 9:30am-2:00pm
Where: EqualityMaine office at 1 Pleasant Street, (4th floor) in Portland
Info: Work to build grassroots support for equal rights legislation
Contact: MWD

BDN PhotoProtest against illegal labor practices
When: 10:00 a.m. Monday, May 9th
Where: 96 Parkway South, Brewer (DHL/Rydbom headquarters)
Info: This picket is in response to the DHL parcel company firing 23 long-time employees after they formed a Union.
A bipartisan group will present letters signed by 32 area business, Congressman Mike Michaud, Governor John Baldacci, Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis, Secretary of State Matt Dunlop, and hundreds of others, which tell DHL/Rydbom that illegal union busting is unacceptable in Maine.

Contact: Penobscot County Democratic Committee

Maine Citizen Leadership Fund phone canvass
When: Any time over the next few weeks
Where: MCLF office in Portland or from home
Info: Lobby for the proposal that would ensure that no homeowner pays more than 5% of their income in property taxes.
Contact: Jon at MCLF

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Turn it Up

One of the many advantages of being back in Maine is that I get to listen to Maine Public Radio while driving. It's one thing to read a quote from Brian Duprey about "gay babies", it's another thing entirely to actually hear him say it.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Zoning Out

The State and Local Government Committee unanimously approved a bill yesterday that would change Maine's time zone. If the measure passes the legislature, the question of whether to switch to Atlantic Time will be on the statewide ballot in November, 2006. Here's the Maine Public Radio report (audio file).

Currently, the sun rises and sets in Maine an hour earlier than it does in the rest of the country because our state is shifted into a time zone to the west of its actual geographic location.

Proponents of the change to Atlantic Time cite advantages to commerce, energy savings, and mental health improvements. One group, the Maine Association of Broadcasters, has already lined up to oppose the measure. They're worried about the effects this change could have on TV schedules.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Maine Won't Discriminate Website Launched

The campaign is holding a voter ID canvass this Saturday in Portland. More information can be found here.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Scylla and Charybdis

From the AP:
Majority legislative Democrats accused Republicans Tuesday of playing politics with the state budget and gave the GOP until May 13 to come up with a line-by-line alternative to the two-year spending plan that was adopted in late March.

"The time for gamesmanship and political stunts is over," Senate President Beth Edmonds said as she and fellow Democrats gathered en masse outside the State House. "We have a lot of important business before us, and the budget veto is a cloud over everything we do."

Even if you ignore the imagery of a bunch of politicians usurping the "people's veto", it's obvious that their proposed budget referendum has put Republicans in a tough situation. Coming out for deep spending cuts or tax increases to replace the loans might hurt the GOP politically, but if they continue their attempt to punch a hole in the budget without any alternate plan at all they just look increasingly vindictive and cynical.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Gay Rights Poll

61% of Mainers support the new anti-discrimination law.
The Market Decisions poll released last week shows 36 percent strongly support the new law, which amends the state's Human Rights Act. Twenty-five percent somewhat support the change. Eight percent somewhat oppose and 17 percent strongly oppose the addition, according to the survey.

Fourteen percent were unsure.

Gender appeared to be an indicator of support with 65 percent of women backing the change compared to 56 percent of men.

The survey also found support was strongest among southern Maine residents (69 percent) and college graduates (72 percent.)

The survey of 402 Maine residents was conducted during the month of April. It has a 5 percent margin of error.

This means little in terms of actual votes. There were similar numbers before each of the last two referendums and yet the religious right still got slightly more pro-discrimination types to the polls.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Get on the Truth Truck!

BDN photoA seniors group called the Alliance for Retired Americans has been sending a flatbed truck around the country stacked with the signatures of more than a million Americans who oppose Bush's plans to privatize Social Security.

The truck began its tour of New England yesterday with a stop in Bangor with Mike Michaud and then one in Portland with Tom Allen.
"Social Security is a benefit that's always been there," 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud told a group of about 30 protesters gathered in front of the truck parked outside the federal building. "It's a solid foundation we need in our society, and efforts to privatize it ... are simply wrong, outrageous."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

PFA Nuclear Option Ad to Air in Maine

Progress for America, a right-wing group that supports the complete elimination of the legislative filibuster is spending $1.5 million to run television ads in six states in an attempt to prop up Bush's radical nominees. Maine is one of their targets.

You can watch the first ad here and view the counter-ad from People for the American Way here.

Here's a bit more about Justice Brown.
Justice Brown is one of the most unapologetically ideological nominees of either party in many years. In speeches, she has openly embraced the Supreme Court's so-called "Lochner" era, during which the justices struck down numerous worker protection laws on grounds that they violated the supposed right of free contract. Across the spectrum of constitutional law scholarship, there are few points of greater consensus than that this period is a blot on the Supreme Court's history. [...]

Her colleagues on California's high court certainly understand where she's coming from. In one case they rebuked her for seeking to impose her "personal theory of political economy on the people of a democratic state."

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Heath Watch

The Christian Civic League email today rails against a book that was included as optional reading at a Massachusetts elementary school. The book, titled "Who's In The Family?" shows children from different types of families, including one with two fathers. From the email:
Many of the readers of The RECORD can easily remember the day when the publisher of such a book would have been the one to be arrested…along with the superintendent. But now, sexual mores are apparently a bit more lax in America.

That's right, Heath thinks publishers should be imprisoned for allowing same-sex couples to be depicted in print.

Visit the new Maine Politics.

Monday, May 02, 2005


This legislative session's tax plan buffet has been laid out. It's now up to the Taxation Committee and the legislature to choose the tastiest morsels.

Baldacci's plan calls for a slight reduction in the highest state income tax rate, an increase in the low-income tax credit, and an eventual elimination of both the personal property tax on business equipment and the business equipment tax reimbursement program (BETR).

Sen. Joseph Perry, D-Bangor, and Rep. Richard Woodbury, U-Yarmouth, the Taxation Committee chairmen, have their own plan which would flatten the state income tax at 6% and create a broader sales tax at 4%. (The BDN believes this plan is DOA)

Rep. Ben Dudley D-Portland and a coalition of progressive groups called "Taxpayers for a Fair Budget" have submitted a plan that would create a more graduated income tax, increase property tax relief and cut parts of the BETR in order to help small businesses.

I haven't heard much from the Maine Heritage Policy Center, but they're probably backing a plan calling for a merger of the state's school lunch program and the hazardous waste disposal system in order to fund a tax cut for millionaires. Or something like that.

Other items of discussion include the implementation of a local-option sales-tax provision that could be used to raise funds for local development projects and a possible increase in "sin" taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

Visit the new Maine Politics.