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It’s not everyday that we receive a joint press release from Democratic and Republican leaders, unified in applause of something that has gone right Augusta. In our experience, it’s much more likely to get seperate press releases that point fingers at each other when something has gone wrong.
So the statements that Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, Senate Republican leader Jeff Timberlake and House Republican leader Kathleen Dillingham sent out last week in the same press release, which recognized the bipartisan work done to complete Maine’s redistricting process, were a nice change of pace. As was the dealmaking itself.
With national politics defined by brinkmanship, this agreement at the state level to finalize new congressional and legislative district maps offered a more hopeful view of what’s possible when leaders embrace pragmatism rather than posturing.
It speaks to a redistricting process that is better than many other states, even if there is still some room for improvement in terms of making it more nonpartisan. But it also speaks to people rolling up their sleeves, doing the hard work, and choosing compromise over chaos.
“From the start, our goal was to keep districts compact, keep counties whole, and keep municipalities and communities of interest together as much as possible,” Jackson, who served on the redistricting commission, said in his statement. “It is because we believe Maine people deserve better than partisan fighting and political games when it comes to making sure they have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.”
“Sometimes it takes a few weeks and many hours of working out our differences, but the result of the latest apportionment process shows that when all sides sit down and work together, we can arrive at a positive outcome for the people of Maine,” Timberlake said.
“I am proud that Maine’s process is both transparent and bipartisan,” Fecteau said. “Our laws require both parties to agree on maps, and the rules around how districts are divided are based on common sense. Despite the census data being late this year, with a much tighter timeline than ever before, the process was still one our state can be proud of.”
“Maine stands out in the nation for fair and decent political districts that aren’t influenced by partisanship. Gerrymandering isn’t something we worry about in Maine,” Dillingham said in her statement. “I commend the Commission for their hard work over the last few months. To have a product that came together in a shortened timeline that was unanimously agreed upon by the Apportionment Commission, we can be very proud of that.”
Pride. That word kept popping up in these statements. Even Gov. Janet Mills joined in that theme when applauding the commission’s work.
“To have done so without rancor and partisanship and under a constrained timeline is something Maine people can be proud of,” Mills said.
We’ll acknowledge that bipartisan agreement is not a virtue unto itself, and that ideas backed by both parties can still be bad ideas. And we’re biased, but we wonder if the commission could have saved time by using the middle of the road map created by BDN politics reporter Jessica Piper and called it a day.
Ultimately, however, Maine avoided the kind of redistricting drama seen elsewhere and this process reached the finish line without getting kicked to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. That was not guaranteed. It took work, and meant navigating through some chaos, particularly because of the time crunch created by delayed data from the U.S. Census Bureau. With this in mind, the statements from various state leaders are on the mark: The end result is something to be proud of.