Blue city in a red state

Election wrap-up
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 11, 2010

Maine changed last Tuesday. By a slim margin, citizens voted to send Tea Party-backed Paul LePage to the Blaine House next year; the governor-elect quickly assembled a transition team that includes John Butera, executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council and business development director during Angus King's administration; Tarren Bragdon, chief executive officer at the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center; and Ann Robinson, a lawyer and this year's Maine State Republican Convention chairman.

Meanwhile, Mainers began adjusting to a sea change in the State House. For the first time since the 1970s, Republicans hold the majority in both the House and Senate, which could be bad news for Portland, which is represented only by non-Republicans. (Ben Chipman, a longtime Green leader and former legislative aide to Green John Eder, won in District 119 as an independent.)

"Portland is in a trap like it's never been before," said Ken Capron, the Republican who lost to Democrat Denise Harlow in House District 116. "There is literally no way that these . . . legislators can get anything through."

In this climate, an independent voice could make a difference. Chipman, who beat progressive Dem Jill Barkley by 173 votes, says he started getting phone calls on election night from both Republicans and Democrats. "I'm the only independent in the House, which makes my vote a really key, pivotal vote" on close issues, he said.

In response to constituent concerns about crime and safety in Chipman's Parkside neighborhood, he says he'd consider serving on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. He also wants to work on tax reform and public transportation issues.

While Portlanders may struggle for representation in Augusta, they're in for a different type of it on the local scale. Fifty-two percent of voters approved a measure that will return the elected-mayor position to city government; the first mayoral election in more than 80 years will take place next November and candidates will start throwing their hats in the ring this winter.

"People have seen that what we need now in Portland is leadership," says Jed Rathband, who managed the Elect Our Mayor, Yes on One campaign.

The mayoral election in November 2011 will also "be a test run of ranked-choice voting," says Nicola Wells, communication director for the League of Young Voters, which poured most of its manpower and energy into supporting this ballot question and another, which would have given municipal voting rights to legal immigrants who are not citizens. That measure failed.

Eliot Cutler, the independent who gave Paul LePage a run for his money, will likely pay attention to the implementation and results of the ranked-choice process.

In his November 3 concession speech, Cutler said the election results "should cause us to talk about run-off voting in the state of Maine," referring to an electoral system wherein voters indicate their ordered preference of candidates. The method is meant to ensure that the winning candidate has a majority of the votes.

That's not the only election reform that Cutler has in mind. He also said that early voting places a stranglehold on the election process, giving the two major political parties an advantage over independent candidates, and ignoring the twists and turns that a campaign can experience up until the last minute.

While Cutler was planning a vacation with his wife in the days following the election, he hasn't said much about his long-term future plans, other than to assure reporters that he "intends to be part of [the election-reform] discussion."

Democrat Libby Mitchell, who came in third place on Election Day, has said she will retire from politics and work at her husband's law firm in Augusta.

  Topics: This Just In , Politics, elections, Angus King,  More more >
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