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Two Maines. The Volvo Line. “From Away.”
Whatever you call it, a longstanding fault line in our state has been re-exposed by the U.S. Senate race.
It led to the Bangor Daily News editorial board suggesting the term “from away” be retired, on the theory that new residents should be welcomed. There is an interesting juxtaposition between that sentiment and statements made by certain advocates on Indigenious People’s Day that Maine was “stolen” by people… from away.
That study in contrasts is best saved for another day.
Nevertheless, here’s a prediction: the concept of “two Maines” will decide the winner of the Senate race.
Susan Collins was born in Aroostook, into a family with deep County roots. Her mother and father were both mayor of Caribou, while her uncle was a Justice on the Maine Supreme Court. Numerous family members served in the Maine legislature.
Their styles reflect their differing paths to public office. Collins often embodies an older style of politics, where party often cedes priority to personal relationships. Augusta had often avoided the bitter partisanship of Washington. With some notable exceptions, Democrats and Republicans worked well together.
Gideon is of a more modern vintage. She notably accused Republicans of “terrorism” when it came to a fight over the state budget. She (rightly) later apologized.
Meanwhile, Gideon has accused Amy Coney Barrett — President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace famed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — of having “a political agenda.” The House Speaker suggests jurists should not have such agendas.
She’s absolutely right; a good judge needs to be able to write opinions they hate if that is what the law requires. But it is hard to square calls for objectivity with Gideon’s laudatory praise of the late Justice Ginsburg as a “fighter” for certain political positions.
Collins approaches the Supreme Court with a bit more consistency. She is in her biggest political battle since she faced former Gov. Joe Brennan for her current Senate seat.
Political opponents have attacked her unceasingly for supporting Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. But up to this point, Collins has supported every Supreme Court candidate put to a vote during her tenure in Washington.
Elena Kagan, when nominated, was the Obama Administration’s chief advocate in front of the Supreme Court. Like Gideon today, many Republicans then accused Kagan of having “a political agenda.” But Collins — along with fellow Maine Senator Olympia Snowe — voted to confirm. Because, without question, Elena Kagan was qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.
The present Supreme Court battle highlights the political fault line that is “two Maines.” By all accounts, Sara Gideon is a lovely person in personal interactions. Yet between calling Republicans “terrorists” over a budget fight and her inconsistency in reacting to Ginsburg and Barrett, her politics reflect a more national tone.
She has since been endorsed by the editorial board of the southern Maine-based Portland Press Herald.
Yet, this week, an Axios’ analysis found Collins the least-likely Republican official to support Trump. That independent streak is, in part, why the Bangor Daily News editorial board offered her its endorsement.
The U.S. Senate race is probably the only campaign where Maine’s two largest statewide papers will diverge in their endorsements. As much as we may wish otherwise, there are very real differences between different parts of our state.
So here’s my prediction: Sara Gideon will win the U.S. Senate race.
But only in the First Congressional District.
Collins will win the Second Congressional District. And the overall winner will be whoever runs the score up higher in the district they win.
So does a Caribou native appeal to Sanford more than a Freeport resident speaks to Veazie? We’ll see.
Yet, whoever wins will represent one Maine, not two. And hopefully they will bring our values to Washington and make politics better.
Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan and in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine. He was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.