An ongoing discussion of politics, law, pop culture, and fine draperies.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Arguably Endorsements:
The Final Chapter

(posted after I voted, but prepared before I voted. Post voting comments will follow)

Official Sites:
Pat LaMarche, Green Party
Chandler Woodcock Republican Party
Philip Morris NaPier The People's Hero Independent
John Baldacci Democratic Party
Barbara Merrill Independent

I am honestly torn about the Governor's race. It shocks me to say it, but I am ambivilent about whether or not Baldacci wins, and may be inclined toward the same feelings expressed by Village Soup Guest columnist Sarason Liebler, of Liberty
vote none of the above. That won't happen, however, and my vote will come down to one of three candidates. But let me start with basic predictions.

How the Newspapers line-up:

Here is
an AP overview of endorsements, noting the latest boards to go for Gov. Baldacci.

Bangor Daily News:
Portland Press Herald:
Waterville Morning Sentinel / Kennebec Journal:
Brunswick Times Record:
Lewiston Sun-Journal:
None of the Above
Camden Herald:
Portland Phoenix:

I see the totals, from lowest to highest, as follows: Napier, less than 1%. LaMarche, 7%; Woodcock, 25%; Merrill, 30%; Baldacci, greater than 35%.

Let's start with those who have no shot for my vote, and have no shot at winning:

1. Napier (Ind.).

He's a non-factor and not worth discussing seriously. But that is a very handsome puppy. No argument from me.

2. Woodcock (Rep).

I was confident he couldn't beat Baldacci in a 1-on-1 race, well before the other two viable candidates jumped in, and far and away before the story about his past tax liens popped up. Here's why:

Why he won't get my vote:

He's a Moral/Relgious Conservative, and he seeks to enact all of the political choices that his movement supports. So he'll push that agenda on abortion/contraception, gay marriage/civil unions, civil rights protections for sexual orientation, religion in the classroom/government, etc. He's also a Republican on government power and taxation, and he seeks to do the same with those issues. So he'll seek to cut state government expenditures by cutting the revenue flow. However, government won't get cut because the lobbies are too strong and won't give into that tactic. Therefore, we'll be left with huge budget shortfalls, requiring huge borrowing and some ill-advised government spending cuts. By ill advised, I mean the funding for programs and people who aren't politically "important," and therefore expendable. The programs that need to be overhauled – welfare/Medicaid and public education –have serious lobbies that will resist the changes that need to be made. But, all of the programs that help make Maine better – from small business support/grants to the Dept. of Conservations' State Parks and other Public Lands management offices – will be disproportionately gutted, despite any efficiencies those agencies may have already incorporated on their own. And that's dumb.

Why he might get my vote: N/A

Why he won't win:

He will take the entire religious conservative wing of the Republican party. But he will split the other half -- moderate Republicans who don't like Baldacci -- with Barbara Merrill. These are the people who would have voted for Peter Mills if he won the Republican nomination in the primary but didn't because he didn't run a good campaign, the National party pushed for Woodcock, and because the religious half of the party was also uniformly behind Woodcock. So, the Religious conservatives won the battle (getting one of theirs to win the nomination) only to lose the war (no way a religious conservative could win the governorship of the entire voting population in a state so skeptical about such intrusive moral governance). Frankly, if Peter Mills was nominated, Barbara Merrill would be polling 10% or not even be running, and Peter Mills would be your next governor. But that's not even remotely relevant anymore.

Therefore, my vote comes down to one of three:

1. Gov. Baldacci (Dem)

Why he might get my vote:
He is the Democrat, and I'm a Democrat. Plus, he does advocate many programs and policies I support. He spends on conservation. He advocates progressive ideas for social programs, economic development, and regional development. And on the stump, I find myself agreeing with every policy he touts or describes when he publicly speaks.

Why he might not get my vote:
I guess ultimately, it's the simple calculus – Maine State government is sick and bloated and still often ineffectual, and as the guy in charge of all that, I shouldn't endorse the work he's done or not done to change that course. Think about it. Our state taxes are high primarily because our state government administration costs too much. I think I agree with most of the policies advocated by his state government, although I suspect we need to re-prioritize what kind and level of welfare and public health care benefits we want to provide for our poorest citizens.

Yet, the program goals and execution aren't what cost so much. It's the duplication of services – both between differing and non-communicating state agencies, and among different units of the same agency. This is because there are too many officials at the top of the administrative food chain who command too high salaries and who spend every dollar appropriated their way, because to do otherwise means you'll get less money during the next budget cycle. It's a sick and twisted model of "big government," which supposedly died a happy death in the 1990s. Instead, it is alive and well in Maine and will continue to suck our money away until administrative changes are made.

Why he might not win:
Because enough Democrats and Independents who voted for him in 2002 are displeased with the certain tangible cases of administrative ineptitude by those he put into offices and the air of corruption that seems to be lying just beneath the surface of several of those seemingly inept agency heads. Pat LaMarche might siphon off enough lefty environmentalists and socialists to jeopardize votes from him from "the base," while Barbara Merrill simultaneously siphons off enough independents and moderate Democrats who voted for him last time.

Why he will probably win:
1) too few far lefties are likely to vote for LaMarche to dent his liberal base,
2) Barbara Merrill is failing to make a compelling case for herself as a sufficiently human candidate with earnest middle-left policy goals that she can, by virtue of her personality, push into place (see "Angus King"), and
3) Chandler Woodcock presents absolutely no appeal to anyone registered as a Democrat and very little appeal to most true unenrolled independents.

2. Barbara Merrill (Ind.)

Why she might get my vote:
I am charmed by her focus on earnestly eliminating waste and corruption from state government while not cutting the programs and values that lie at the heart of its bloated self. Generally, she supports progressive government, primarily environment-based, as evidenced by her former Democratic affiliation. But, she demands that government fulfill those goals through entreprenurialism and sound fiscal policy. In short, she is a "New Democrat," a la Bill Clinton, only with an even bigger focus on economic development. Finally, in a certain light, she's kinda hot. Kinda.

Why she might not get my vote:
She doesn't have the power of personality to pull it off. Plus, you get the sense that her ego and ambition are driving her more powerfully than any idealistic core. And, people I know from Appleton don't think she's that great of a neighbor, and kind of a demogogue.

Why she might win:
She's done a good job in simultaneously chewing away at Baldacci's support/potential voters from his right, and from Woodcock's support/potential voters from his left. Think Germany, pre Stalingrad, successfully fighting two fronts until Hitler refused to bunker-in for some time to consolidate his gains in Eastern Europe before really driving to beat Russia. Fortunately, she only needs to pull this smoke-and-mirrors act for another week, whereas Hitler was fighting for time before Russia re-tooled and the U.S. realized its unstoppable warmaking power. But I digress .... Plus, she might draw a few points by mere fact that she runs as "an independent," and Maine voters' proud allegience/soft spot for the "myth of the independent Mainer."

Why she probably won't win:
Plain and simple, she needed to do better in chewing away in both directions than she needed to do before now. I think she spent enough and enjoyed a strong spell of positive media attention, but she failed to make the most of those two functions. In particular:

a). She needed to come off as unflappable, human, and polished -- basically, a female Angus King. She has appeared sensitive to criticism about her decision to quit the Democratic Party, whereas she needed to spin this as the source of her electability -- i.e. "fed up," but still "wedded to rprogressive values" fulfilled by "fiscally responsible means." Plus, she's seemed cold and spiteful in the debates and public appearances I've observed, where she needed to be just a regular, smart woman with human qualities like those few powerful women we all know in our lives and think, "Gee, why doesn't she run for office?" Finally, she isn't polished. Angus King won because he was a terrific public speaker, who both said the right things and said them confidently and charmingly enough that you couldn't not nod while listening to him. She doesn't have this thing, call it what you will.

b) She also needed to embrace the stuff laid out in the Brookings Institute's Report on Reinventing Maine Government before Baldacci could co-opt it as his own plan, which he'll claim he started in 2002 but only now is starting to manifest good results (partial B.S./spin-o-matic by Baldacci). Brookings said everything she's claimed to be fighting for, but she never grabbed the weapon and ran with it.

c) Enough Democrats/Moderates (who were/are sympathetic to the stuff she says) are scared to death of the prospect who the slight possibility that Chandler Woodcock could eek out a win because the the Middle-Left majority split its vote they will vote for Baldacci in spite of their disaffection toward him. It's the "wasted vote" phenomenon. These folks think: "I don't like Baldacci, but I've seen a lot of LaMarche signs up in yards that had "Kerry" signs in 2004 and "Gore" signs in 2000 that I wonder how many are going to abandon the Democratic incumbant. I like Barbara Merrill better than Baldacci, but if she doesn't win, Woodcock might. Fuq that! I'm voting for Baldacci."

3. Pat LaMarche (Green)

Why she might get my vote:
She is the smartest of the lot, is the most engaging speaker, and talks about all of the issues I think are important in making Maine improve. She is an articulate liberal, a fighter, and she believes in what she says.

Why she might not get my vote:
Two reasons: Policy and pragmatic. She is a little too far left for my tastes. I don't think we need to expand our social services programs any bigger than they already are. If anything, I think we need to rein in our welfare spending generally and really gauge what the State taxpayers believe should be offered for free to the poor before we establish new expanded program priorities. And I think we need to balance our policies toward natural resource stewardship a bit more than she advocates (She'd likely bar use and exploitation of certain resources that I think could be used responsibly with great economic advantage to we taxpayers without jeopardizing their inherant value/beauty/recreational values).

Why she might win:
I don't really think she has a shot. To her credit, she commands as much support from the far left as Jonathan Carter did in 1994, and she has a hell of a lot more cross-over appeal (and likeability) than Carter ever had. And he still polled more than 6%, effectively stealing enough likely "otherwise Democrat" votes from Joe Brennan to allow Angus King to prevail. However, the stars all need to align perfectly, in that her only conceivable chance to win would need to come by way of a fluke result. Some instance of mathematical perfection like this:

a. She nails the "true liberal believer vote," who decide to abandon Baldacci entirely, and even steals a decent share of moderate Democratic women who like her because of her strong woman candidate credentials. This gives her 26%

b. Chandler Woodcock draws barely any support from moderate Republicans, and sees his support limited to the religous right and true Party believers. This gives him 19%

c. Barbara Merrill draws all of the Moderate Republican and Middle-Right portion of the Unenrolled votes. This includes many Republicans who deserted Woodcock due to his religious right stances, but more importantly, those who feel like Woodcock lost all viability due to redneck support for Napier (see below) and the tax lien issue. However, she fails to draw as many registered Democrats and Middle-Left Unenrolled voters as she expected. This gives her 25%

d. Philip Morris Napier, The People's Hero, draws 4%, all of which come from the former Ross Perot voters who are normally inclined toward Republicans because they hate Clinton, but they also distrust people who wear ties and talk like businessmen or lawyers, like Woodcock does.

e. "None of the Above" -- writeins and Mickey Mouse -- poll about 2%, or whatever number is higher than usual.

f. Gov. Baldacci loses all of the "True Believers" on the liberal side to LaMarche, while losing all of the true Moderates who supported him in 2004 to Merrill. His support is strictly limited to the Party faithful, labor Democrats, teachers, unions, and party bosses/members throughout the state. He polls 25%.

In other words, she has one shot in a thousand or more.

Why she won't likely win:
Because the above scenario or one similarly sketched out is like winning a scratch off – sure the possibility of winning exists, but there are too many loser cards in the deck for any realistic hope of her scratching the one winner. And she isn't perfect enough to cut into the bad odds sufficiently to make winning more conceivable. For example, her DUI has as much chance of alienating the righteous moralists among the Democrats as it does of alluring others by way of the "she's one of us" phenomenon. Either way, it's a potential negative, and she had run with no potential negatives is she wanted to cut out a good number of the loser cards in the lottery deck.

But who knows, really? I might just as possibly sleep through next Tuesday

The Road Ahead

Final pre-vote word on the Governor's Race and my vote:

Even after writing all of this, I don't know how I am going to come down.

I'd like to think I'll vote for LaMarche out of principle, i.e. "I think she would govern over the state with the most compassion and fight the hardest to achieve equality, social justice, and responsible environmental stewardship of any governor we've had since Ken Curtis and beyond."

But I also would like to think I'd vote for Barbara Merrill because I think that all that polish and posturing stuff doesn't mean anything, and bottom line, I agree with her that our top statewide priorites need to be cutting state government waste and creating the kind of economic climate that will both attract entrepreneurial money from outside of the state to put Maine's great natural and human resources to work, and provide fertile enough soil for entreprenuers within the state to lay the foundations for their small and medium sized business ideas to germinate and flourish.

Nonetheless, a part of me thinks I'll believe that Baldacci's intentions are good enough, and take him on his word that he had an eight year plan, that we're halfway home, and that the last four years are when it all comes together. At least, just enough to keep me in fear of four years with Chandler Woodcock in the Blaine House.

As cynical as it sounds, I'll vote for Baldacci if I think Woodcock might win. If Woodcock doesn't win, that realistically means that either Baldacci will be reelected or Barbara Merrill will surprise everybody. As a result, that means I'll probably decide on the day of whether I want my vote to help put either Merrill or Baldacci over the top, or if I want to help Pat LaMarche beef up her totals and preserve both her own political viability within the state and that of the Greens, who will enjoy certain electoral advantages if she gets some percentage of the vote (10%, maybe?).

There you have it.

Now, I feel like going to take a shower and/or a nap.


Blogger Rikki said...

I just was flipping through my links and noticed that the controversial Lewiston Sun Journal story address seems clogged ... so here it is, posted in full form:

After discussion, a choice deferred

Sunday, October 29, 2006

By not endorsing for Maine governor, we show our consensus, not our cop-out.

The Sun Journal will not endorse a candidate for governor of Maine this year.

It's not for lack of trying discussion.

Since early September, the candidates for Maine's highest office took time to visit our offices, discuss their vision for the state, and tolerate our incessant questioning. All but one - an oversight squarely on this forgetful editorial writer - proudly had their portrait taken with the goldfish we named after them.

The candidates - in no particular order - informed, impressed, angered, irritated, surprised and entertained us. Each has qualities to make them able governors, and each made compelling arguments about why they are the incumbent, partied challenger or independent candidate for the job.

One contender even returned to downtown Lewiston with a band of campaign rogues to distribute tiny packages of Pepperidge Farm goldfish to passers-by. In short, the 2006 slate of candidates for Maine governor did everything possible to influence our decision.

The governor's race, we decided early, would have our full attention as the lone election, besides the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, in which we would endorse. We felt duty-bound to reveal the findings of our diligent investigation to our readers, who we hope have come to trust our judgment.

And until Wednesday evening at 6, we were decided. The latest campaign news, political rumblings of an "October Surprise," regardless, shook our confidence to the core, as the basis of our enthusiastic endorsement crumbled under the weight of the revelations.

So, with hats firmly in hands, we cannot, in good conscience, endorse any of the five candidates for governor. This could be interpreted as a cowardly cop-out by a lily-livered editorial board unable to make the difficult decision. If this were a cowboy town, we'd might be called "yellah."

Trust us, it's not. We don't like this at all, but in our defense, we need to reinforce why newspapers make endorsements in the first place. Endorsements, in their purest forms, are informed opinions on proper courses of action. They are neither bestowed, awarded, traded or given away.

Endorsements are earned.

While Gov. John Baldacci has made strong efforts toward improving Maine, his long-term solutions have done little to appease short-term taxpayer concerns. Dirigo Health, LD 1 and investment in higher education are laudable attempts hampered by Maine's tortuous taxation and spending environment.

Perhaps his greatest achievement came early in his administration, when he executed a nifty squeeze on state government to patch a $1.1 billion budget crack. At that time, he appeared to have the fortitude to make tough spending decisions, but in subsequent years - highlighted by miscues like the egregious Medicaid billing fiasco - it seems his courage has eroded.

Rep. Barbara Merrill, Pat LaMarche and yes, Phillip NaPier (Thu People's Hero!) ran spirited campaigns and proved the shell of partisan politics is easily broken by upstarts with strong beaks. One view we can endorse is the hope that future races feature such a strong, and eclectic, independent slate.

Which brings us to Sen. Chandler Woodock, whose personal tax difficulties dynamited our spirited support.

One may argue Woodcock's liens connect the plain-spoken Farmington senator with the average Mainer's experience with brutish taxes. Yet walking miles in our moccasins doesn't always make for good governance, and while many may struggle with taxes, only one is running for governor.

To use an overwrought political cliché, we couldn't support someone wishing to put Maine's "fiscal house in order," who has struggled to bring order to his own.

Despite our myriad descriptors of the candidates - informing, irritating, etc. - one word is markedly missing: inspiring. As much as we enjoyed the candidates' company, none made us confident enough to earn our endorsement to lead Maine through the end of this decade.

11:37 PM

Blogger B said...

I like how you respond to your own post instead of just making another post.

Fun and excitement all around. Everything went well here except for Marion County Prosecutor... the state house even swung blue...

anyway... bask

8:33 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home