April 21, 2018
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Mitchell trumps Cutler, LePage for governor

By James B. Wagner, Special to the BDN

I have known Libby Mitchell since we were freshman members of the Maine House in 1975-76. I served only one term but have followed Libby’s public service with admiration ever since, as she has moved into leadership in both the House and Senate.

Libby’s first term was in a divided Legislature (Democratic House, Republican Senate) with independent Jim Longley as governor. That was a formula for deadlock with a strong-minded and short-fused governor who lacked governmental experience and was unfamiliar with the give-and-take of the democratic process.

I applaud Libby’s knowledge of the inner workings of state government where she has deftly served Maine citizens for many years. I see Libby Mitchell’s four-year tenure at the Maine State Housing Authority as evidence of her ability to serve in a nonlegislative capacity to bring affordable housing to Maine’s seniors and others. This role required administrative talent akin to running a successful large business. Her service stands in stark contrast to her major opponents.

I am not impressed by the Bangor Daily News endorsement of unenrolled candidate Eliot Cutler, given the historic ties between the Cutler family and the owners of the paper. I respect and admire the elder Cutlers (Lawrence and Catherine) for their public service in Greater Bangor as active Democrats and citizen volunteers. However, unlike his parents, the candidate Cutler has not lived in Maine until recently (and now in a multi-million-dollar mansion on the sea) and left the state early to pursue laudable service in federal executive departments before turning to a much more lucrative career in big-city law, including time as a lawyer for Chinese interests.

Meanwhile, an honest appraisal of Paul LePage’s resume shows that he assumed the management of an already successful retail enterprise that specializes in selling cheap foreign goods and hiring low-paid workers without universal employee health coverage. Furthermore, the successes touted during

LePage’s tenure as Waterville’s mayor need to be seen in the context of how much Waterville received from the Maine treasury. Under the state’s school funding formula, Mr. Cutler’s town may well have been subsidizing Mr. LePage’s town.

Libby has shown the capacity to work across partisan divides and to enact balanced budgets in hard economic times without drastically curtailing services to those in need. Maine has done better than many states during the current recession, thanks in part to Libby’s leadership role as president of the Senate. Libby, as governor, would be uniquely positioned to effect real change and improvement in the way our state government functions.

I appeal to voters not to be lulled by glib sloganeering, whether it be the exaggerated “rags to riches” tale of LePage or the catchy “Independent… Just Like Maine” of Cutler. I still remember Jim Longley’s full facial ads urging voters to “Think About It.” His slogan prevailed over both candidates (including the wonderful George Mitchell) and Mainers had four long and painful years to “Think About It.” Let’s not be fooled again.

James B. Wagner of Sorrento was a Democratic representative from Orono in the 107th Legislature.

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