In the best-selling book “Moneyball,” about the transformation in the evaluation of baseball players, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane famously tells his old-school scouting department that, “You guys just sit around talking the same old ‘good body’ nonsense like we’re selling jeans.” Beane’s point was to call out the failed strategy of looking at a player’s physical attributes, as opposed to the player’s actual statistics, in deciding whether the team should acquire the player. He urged the scouts to stop “looking for Fabio” and instead find guys who were good at getting on base and scoring runs.
I keep coming back to this comparison as I explain to voters why they should support Mike Michaud for governor. No one disagrees that Maine faces enormous challenges right now, and we need the right leader to meet them. However, what a political leader is has been the subject of much debate. Too often the definition of a political leader tends to the superficial — things such as an elite resume, a Kennedy-esque personal charm, an authoritative voice or good hair. But while these qualities might make a good character on a TV show, Maine doesn’t need a superficially good politician. Rather, Maine needs a governor with specific skills that will actually affect policy results. Maine needs a leader who gets on base and scores runs, not someone who sells jeans. And that description fits Mike Michaud like a glove.
Mike has the right kind of experience. Maine is not electing a CEO in 2014, it’s electing a governor — and the difference between the two is vital for voters to understand over the next year. No business in the world has a CEO and a co-equal board of directors consisting of 186 people. But, that is exactly how Maine government works, and the last three years have been an object lesson in just how important that dynamic is to the ability of the government to address serious problems.
Today, no one is better positioned to work well with the Legislature than Mike Michaud. He has an unmatched record of success in the give-and-take of policy negotiations. Just to name a few: he brought Democrats and Republicans together to unanimously pass Maine’s first law to lower prescription drug costs; he successfully reformed Maine’s forestry practices; and just this year, he passed 34 bills out of the Veterans Affairs Committee at a time Congress is paralyzed on many other issues.
These are accomplishments born of specific skills developed through Mike’s experience in elective office. At a time when passing legislation is so challenging, nothing is more important than putting a person in the Blaine House who can jump right into that environment and succeed. That’s Mike Michaud.
Mike listens. Maine needs a course correction in how it’s trying to achieve progress. That new direction will need broad input and broad support to succeed. That kind of support is only possible when good ideas are combined with good listening. Maine people need to be heard and deserve to know they have a voice in Augusta. Real leadership isn’t about imposing new policy on Maine. It’s about working to address the problems we face, together.
Mike Michaud is the best listener in Maine. I can tell you as someone who hears from a lot of Maine people about their political experiences, the stories are legion of Mike Michaud’s ability to empathize and connect with average people. He has been criss-crossing the state for years, meeting with people from all walks of life. No one better understands what Maine families, Maine businesses and Maine workers are going through right now. That makes him best able to craft an agenda to meet all of their needs.
Mike has Maine values. Of course, it’s not nearly enough to elect a governor who listens and has the know-how to act. The governor also has to believe in the right things for moving Maine forward. The governor has to have values that reflect Maine people.
Ultimately, this is the primary reason to support Mike Michaud — he wants to do the right things for Maine, and he shares Maine values. He believes that a strong middle class is the key to economic recovery. He believes business, labor and environmental protection can all coexist. He believes in a strong public school system that provides equal opportunity for all. He believes in growing the whole economic pie, and also making sure everyone who contributes to the growth gets a fair slice. He believes that some people need a little more help and that our common compassion demands that they get it.
If Billy Beane looked at Mike Michaud’s experience, skills, and values, he would tell his scouts to draft him. Maine people should do the same in 2014.
Ben Grant is chairman of the Maine Democratic Party.