The Week in Maine Politics: Nov. 6, 2022

A final recap of the 2022 election season ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
A sticker with an American flag and the words I VOTED
Photo by Vox Efx/Flickr.

Today, we continue a periodic compilation of reporting on the state’s politics leading up to Tuesday’s elections.

The homestretch

In the final full week of the campaign for governor, Caitlin Andrews of The Maine Monitor summed up the closing arguments of major party candidates Janet Mills and Paul LePage. 

A couple of excerpts from the piece:

Mills broke out of her tendency to stick to past successes and avoid future promises by issuing a fiery call to arms at a Portland pro-abortion rights rally. LePage called for the media to aid him in pressuring the governor for more movement on heating assistance and tried to position himself as being more open to reproductive rights while distancing himself from former President Donald Trump.

Those public showings have been bolstered with candidates appearing all over the state in a last effort to reach voters. Whereas Democrats are focused on turning out and energizing voters, Republicans are making a final push to reach undecideds who may be just frustrated enough with the cost of living and the current administration to make a change. 

Election officials cautious heading into midterms

Caitlin Andrews found that Maine election officials are taking precautions against disruption and claims of fraud, even though the state has not seen anywhere near the levels of challenges found in other states. 

“We’re doing as much voter education as possible and encouraging them to use trusted resources if they have any questions about anything,” said Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.

More campaign coverage from The Maine Monitor

Our political coverage is right here. 

We explored candidates’ positions on the economy; criminal justice; the Sappi Mill; the tricky politics of gun rights;  

We also examined frivolous requests from election doubters and Maine’s fight against misinformation. 

Sam Hunkler

Looking for more information on independent candidate for governor Sam Hunkler? Here’s a profile from WGME and another from Spectrum News. Here’s Hunkler’s campaign website. 

Hunkler, of Beals Island, is a semi-retired physician who served in the Peace Corps. He has never run for office before and is not accepting outside campaign contributions.

“In this election my opponents have spent over $23 million, airing many divisive, negative ads, to my less than $5,000. This keeps me unbeholden to anyone or any special interest which appeals to all of us,” Hunkler said in an email to the Monitor.

His website notes that he offers a “different way forward” from the two major parties.

On education, for example: “I support student loan repayment for teachers and aides who commit to the profession for at least 5 years.” 

On the environment: “Let’s funnel the alternative energy money coming from the feds locally to foster energy independence within communities. The towns would own and manage these resources which would include charging stations.”

Governor Janet Mills’ site is right here and former Gov. Paul LePage’s site is here. 

What to expect on election night in Maine?

News Center Maine has the rundown of Tuesday night’s action, courtesy the Associated Press. Maine is notoriously late with its vote count because of hand counting in most small towns and communities. Polls close at 8 p.m. ET. 

The Portland Press Herald reported that as “of Friday morning, 249,865 absentee ballots had been requested, of which 49.5 percent were by registered Democrats, 23.7 percent by Republicans, and the rest by the unenrolled or minor party members.”

Meet the candidates 

Interviews with the candidates from News Center Maine and more coverage and candidate interviews from Maine Public right here. 

And Maine Public’s Political Pulse newsletter looks ahead to what happens after Election Day.

The last debate

In their final debate of the campaign, LePage and Mill traded accusations about the pandemic, management styles, and an alleged gag order and their governance.

At one point, the Press Herald reported, “Mills accused LePage of telling his commissioners not to speak to legislators or the media” when he was in office. 

“LePage denied that he ordered them not to speak to the media, but said he told them they had to notify him if they did so. He said he fired the official because he didn’t follow those instructions. ‘You’re a boss. You like to know what your people are up to,’ LePage said.”

Mills said she does not micromanage: “I never instructed them not to talk to anybody,” she said. “It’s not middle school, it’s state government.”

At another point, according to the Bangor Daily News, the two parried over the economy. LePage and the Republicans have been highlighting a clip that shows Mills referring to inflation as a “distraction.”

“Maine’s next governor has to fight to lower the cost of living,” LePage said, according to the BDN. “I did it once, and I’ll do it again.”

She said that the economy involved  “serious problems that require serious leadership.” She pointed to LePage’s controversies, “from his opposition to Medicaid expansion to a short 2017 government shutdown,” the BDN reported.

“We can’t go back to instability and infighting,” she said. “That stands in the way of solving problems.”

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David Dahl

Veteran journalist David Dahl serves as the editor of The Maine Monitor, overseeing its daily operations. David was most recently a deputy managing editor at the Boston Globe. Before joining the Globe, David worked for 20 years at the St. Petersburg Times. He was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University and a fellow at the Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University. He has also been an adjunct professor of journalism at Emerson College, Boston College and Boston University. David and his wife, Kathy, enjoy tennis and kayaking at their home in Friendship. They have two adult children.
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