Gov. Janet Mills is pictured at the State House on Sept. 10. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

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Phil: We’re on to 2021! Before we go let’s give out our 2020 political awards?

Ethan: Same criteria as always?

Phil: What criteria?

Ethan: Love it. Let’s start.

Buster Douglas Award

Ethan: This one is named after the infamous boxing upset of Mike Tyson by Buster Douglas.This year it goes to Chloe Maxmin for taking out Maine Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow.

Phil: Fun fact. Not since 1992 has an incumbent Senate leader been knocked out. Steve Hall took out Senate President Charlie Pray that year and a little-known town councilor from Yarmouth took out the three-term Majority Leader Nancy Clark.

Ethan: Next year we’ll have to name this the “Phil Harriman” award.

Worst Debate Evah Award

Phil: Lots of possibilities come to mind for this one (Donald Trump’s first debate performance), but we decided Max Linn earned this one. I understand dancing around the questions, but fighting with moderators? No wonder he got less than 2 percent of the vote.

Ethan: We should also give awards to moderators Pat Callaghan, Rachel Ohm, and Michael Shepherd for remaining cool under fire.

Comeback of the Year Award

Phil: This politician also could have received the “Buster Douglas” award, as very few (ahem, ahem) saw her winning re-election. While it is hard to believe a 24-year incumbent could earn comeback player of the year, Sen. Susan Collins earned this with flying colors.

In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, gives a thumbs-up as she addresses supporters just after midnight in Bangor, Maine. Collins won a tough reelection fight in a campaign that featured astonishing levels of spending. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / BDN

Ethan: As much as it pains me, she certainly did. Ranked as the senator with the lowest favorables just a year ago, she beat back as much money as Portland spends on its schools each year.

Sleeper of the year award

Phil: This year it goes to former state Rep. Dale Crafts. A month out of the primary, neither of us saw him winning the Republican nomination for Congress against U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. And in the fall, we both had him losing by double digits. This guy was a low key member of the state House from nowheresville, and he almost took out an incumbent congressman.

Dale Crafts, Republican candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, talks with supporters after parachuting, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Millinocket, Maine. Crafts was struck by a car while riding a motorcycle at age 25, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Ethan: And he actually got more votes and a higher percentage than Golden got against then-Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2018. An impressive introduction and worthy of the “Sleeper of the Year” award.

Eliot Cutler Award

Phil: Who would have thought a Democrat could actually win a seat in Piscataquis County?

Ethan: Not just any Democrat. A lefty, Black, Barbara Jordan-loving Democrat!

Phil: Don’t remind me. And while Dr. Richard Evans probably thinks his platform was the reason he won, he actually won because Republican Chad Perkins, the winner of this award, made the knucklehead move of entering the race splitting the vote against the Republican-turned-independent incumbent Norm Higgins.

Ethan: Indeed. That is why he wins the “Eliot Cutler,” named after the spoiler to end all spoilers.

Richard Evans became the fifth Black legislator in Maine. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Grassroots Group of the Year Award

Ethan: Being a card-carrying member, I get to present this one to People First Portland. Called “subversive,” “nonsense,” and outspent 15-1, PFP shook city hall to its core by passing four groundbreaking referenda by a margin of 60 points!

Phil: I thought the initiatives collectively were more than Portlanders would take on, but even I have to bow down to their election prowess. Kudos for a job well done.

Bonehead Move of the Year Award

Ethan: Phil, what is the first rule of signature gathering?

Phil: Get a lot more signatures than you need.

Ethan: Yup. Well, the Maine Republican Party, after spending half a million bucks to repeal ranked-choice voting, ended up 56 signatures short.

Phil: While I would like to say Secretary of State Matt Dunlap was the bonehead for disqualifying so many signatures, in the end, the Maine Republican Party earned this one!

Not Dead Yet Award

Phil: Despite everyone predicting the end of Republican rule in the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell has again proven to be the leader who knows more than most. Mitch is about to begin his record 15th year as Senate leader for Republicans.

Ethan: I’d like to rename this award, “Not Dead Yet, But I Wish You Were” Award, as in “retired and moved back to Kentucky” dead.

Parted the Red Sea Award

Ethan: In a year when so many of us were expecting a blue wave, Collins won; Dale Crafts almost won; and Republicans picked up 11 seats in the Maine House. Yet, while all this was happening, there was one blue island in the red sea. Troy Jackson gave Democrats our widest Senate majority in almost 40 years.

Phil: While not all of us bought into that Blue Wave you predicted, I certainly did not expect the state Senate to expand its majority and he deserves this award.

Ethan: Whatever sauce President Jackson is mixing, Democrats should be listening to him.

Politician of the Year

Phil: Maine has one of the lowest COVID death rates in the country, and while I don’t agree with the limitations on businesses and our freedoms, the first job of any governor is public safety. Our current occupant of the Blaine House does get credit for acting without hesitation.

Ethan: This has to have been one of the toughest years for any governor in Maine history and no other politician deserves the “Politician of the Year” award more than Gov. Janet Mills. Well done, governor.

Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.