The race for the Democratic nod to run for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat in November comes down largely to questions of legislative style and approach.
Emily Cain of Orono and Troy Jackson of Allagash are both Democratic state senators who agree in broad strokes on most major policy issues. But they have some important differences — and they point clearly to Cain as the candidate most deserving of the Democratic nomination.
Cain has carved out a distinct profile for herself in the Maine Legislature as a lawmaker who thinks strategically and deliberately, and who uses the strong cross-party relationships she has forged to extract the best outcome possible for her constituents.
In her decade of legislative service, Cain has taken on some of the most pressing issues facing the state, managing even to team up with Republican Gov. Paul LePage to take on government ethics and domestic violence. She has been at the center of budget battles as a member of the Appropriations Committee — including one term as its House chair. That’s also where she has forged productive working relationships with members of the opposing party.
We have been impressed by Cain’s unwavering advocacy for consistent, substantial state investments in research and development programs and her determination to institute a rigorous review of the effectiveness of Maine’s numerous economic development tax incentives.
Cain has faced criticism in some Democratic circles during this campaign for her vote to approve LePage’s first budget in 2011, which included unfunded income tax cuts and public benefit reductions. Jackson voted against it. But Cain argues convincingly that the final product was better for the state because she and other Democratic legislators — then in the minority — stayed at the table to negotiate the best deal possible.
Jackson, the state Senate majority leader, exhibits a passion for helping people and an authenticity that are rarities in politics. We appreciate that he keeps the interests of working-class Maine residents foremost in mind.
Unfortunately, he has proposed too many bills in the Maine Legislature that are reactive in nature and lacking in strategy and a respect for the separation of powers among the three branches of government.
This past session, he sponsored a bill to cancel a Medicaid transportation contract — something in the domain of the executive branch — without developing a plan to fill the gap until the contract’s actual expiration. He proposed a protectionist bill that would apply onerous regulations solely on Maine call centers and no other industry. He submitted legislation to help a single constituent avoid fines imposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection and allow him to maintain a lakeside property in a way that violated state zoning and natural resource protection laws. And he authored legislation specifically targeting LePage’s pension benefits, a move simply designed to fan partisan flames.
When it comes to approach, we are concerned by Jackson’s statements throughout this campaign that indicate an aversion to compromise and falsely imply that Cain has compromised core values.
“We don’t need another compromiser in Congress,” Jackson wrote to supporters in an April fundraising email. What does that mean about his willingness to work with willing members of the opposing party? Does that approach risk alienating a U.S. House member from Maine — who would likely be in the minority party — and diminishing the little influence this small state already has in Congress?
While style and approach are the primary differences, there are also some important policy distinctions in Cain’s and Jackson’s records. We applaud Cain’s unwavering commitment to a woman’s uninhibited right to choose and equal rights and protections for same-sex couples — commitments Jackson hasn’t always shared.
Cain is the best choice in the Democratic primary not just because her policy priorities are solid but because her approach to legislating is most likely to bring smart changes for Maine’s 2nd District.