The Week in Maine Politics: Oct. 30, 2022

Campaign spending in several high profile Maine races continues to soar as Election Day nears.
A white sign with a red arrow with "vote here" printed on the sign.
More than 190,000 absentee ballots have been sent out and about 117,000 have been returned. Photo by Erik Hersman/Flickr.

The candidates for governor faced off in two debates last week and will take part in another — the final, fourth debate of the season — on Thursday. The fourth and final gubernatorial debate will be hosted by TV stations WABI and WAGM on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Debate highlight No. 1: The economy, and gender

In an exchange Thursday night’s debate, Republican challenger Paul LePage blamed incumbent Democratic Gov. Janet Mills for inflation and insisted he left her with a healthy state budget when he left office in 2019 after two terms. Then, according to the Portland Press Herald, this exchange began:

LePage interrupted Mills and said “You’re lying” when the governor gave her take on the economy and state budget. 

“I’m speaking,” said Mills.

“All talk and no action,” LePage continued.

In another back and forth, LePage said “you’re one hell of a bad economist.”

“You know, I’ve spent the better part of my career listening to loud men talk tough to disguise their weaknesses,” Mills responded. “And that’s what I’m hearing tonight from Paul LePage. That’s what I heard for eight years from Paul LePage. His weakness is having not led the state, but supervised the state during one of the worst economic recoveries in the nation.”

Debate highlight No. 2: Inflation, energy costs and the environment

In Monday’s debate, LePage talked about his humble upbringing and how he knew what it’s like to face high costs for heating and other household costs. He blamed Mills for economic struggles faced by Mainers and the state as a whole.  

“She hasn’t made it better, she’s making it worse,” LePage said. “Maine can’t afford Janet Mills. We’re in a recession. We’re heading for a disaster. In 2010, I took over in a recession and I fixed it. I’ll fix it again.”

In another line of attack, Lepage took on the $850 checks Mills’ administration is sending to Mainers. “This governor spends money like a drunken sailor,’’ he said. “The only difference between Janet Mills and a drunken sailor is a drunken sailor spends his own money.”

“Look, tell that to the people who got that money in their pockets,” Mills retorted.

But Monday’s debate also highlighted a big difference on energy policy. LePage is pro-oil and sees renewable energy sources as driving up energy costs for Mainers. Mills looks at a broader array of solutions, and is clearly on the greener side of the ledger.

LePage said he would earmark money to put a cap on oil prices and and he vowed to suspend taxes on gas and diesel. He also said he would  “go wherever the oil is” to find more resources. 

“Solar is very, very expensive,” LePage said, according to Maine Public. “In fact, we need to repeal net metering, we need to repeal expedited permitting on solar and wind, and we have to make sure that electric cars pay their fair share of road use.”

Mills blames rising natural gas prices, not solar policies, for high electricity rates, and also notes that inflation is a world-wide — not just Maine-specific — problem. 

She opposes increasing gas taxes and wants to continue to lower the state’s reliance on fossil fuels by turning to renewables. She’s backed incentives to encourage solar farms in Maine.

“We’ve got to look for alternative heating sources and alternative energy sources,” Mills said, per Maine Public. “We can’t be dependent on the big oil companies any longer. We’ve got to diversify our energy sources.”

Campaign spending continues to skyrocket

Spending on the race for governor has now broken records, reaching $23 million. The bulk of it is coming from outside groups, the Press Herald reports.

Mills continues to hold an advantage over LePage, the Associated Press reports.

And in the campaign between Senate president Troy Jackson and Republican challenger Rep. Sue Bernard has reached $1 million.  More on that race here.

Short takes

– More than 190,000 absentee ballots have been sent out as of last week, and about 117,000 returned, the secretary of state’s office says.  Clerks around Maine report that Mainers are taking advantage of early voting. You can request an absentee ballot right here and you can find your polling place with this handy tool right here. 

– Maine Public offered this outline of the 13 questions on the Portland ballot. More on the questions in the Press Herald.

– Voter guides are available from the Bangor Daily News and the Press Herald and Maine Public.


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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