GOP’s hold straw poll, hear from Gov. LePage
The Lincoln County Republican Caucus met at Great Salt Bay Community School on Saturday, Feb. 17 for a gubernatorial straw poll. Gov. Paul LePage and wife Ann addressed the audience as keynote speakers and five gubernatorial, two U.S. Senate, one U.S. House of Representatives and several state legislative candidates received time to speak to constituents.
Gubernatorial candidates present were Ken Fredette, House Representative for District 25; Mary Mayhew, LePage’s former commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Shawn Moody, business owner, 2010 gubernatorial candidate and University of Maine System and Maine Community College System board of trustees member.
Lincoln County Republicans Chair Dick Mayer introduced Gov. LePage who quashed any remaining rumors that he intends to run for Congress. LePage said his frequent visits to Washington, D.C. are to lobby against a current lumber tariff he claims is detrimental to the local and national economy, and lobby for forest management of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
“I’m not going to Washington to get a job, because guess what folks? I don’t intend to run for office because I don’t want to be in the swamp and I sure as hell am not going to go down there and work.”
LePage urged his audience to work together once the primary election concludes, stressing that keeping the party in lock-step will ultimately be good for Maine.
“… We have the message, we have the policies, and if anybody’s not been sleeping the past eight years, the state of Maine’s financial commission is better than it’s been in 50 years … I maintain that if we win this election in the fall, the state of Maine will turn red and it’s going to be like it was from 1820 to the 1950s – Maine was a red state.”
The last time a Democrat won a statewide election was in 2006, LePage said.
“Let’s make it 16,” LePage said to applause.
After acknowledging his former running opponent Shawn Moody’s recent move to the Republican party, LePage shared that when he first became a Republican in 1976, he did not know what one was.
“All I knew was that I had conservative tendencies. In the Democratic party, John Kennedy had left – there was no more John Kennedy’s and he was the last conservative Democrat that I know of in my lifetime. So, I had no option than to tag along with Gerry Ford and Ronald Reagan and move forward.”
LePage reiterated that the Republican party in Maine must join together as a whole.
“The leaders of the Republican party – the president of the Senate, the minority leader in the House, and the governor of the state of Maine – have to get behind closed doors, lock it, and they all come out as a team … It’s not about us as individuals, it’s about the people of the state of Maine and the Republican party … It’s important that this party get it right … we need to get together, we need to bury the bad blood, bury the hatchet, bury the past and move forward because if we don’t, we could break that string from 2006. And it is so, so important for myself and my wife that we leave Maine in good hands.”
Ann LePage, often introduced by daughter Lauren as “the softer side of Paul LePage,” chronicled her family’s journey to the Blaine House in 2010. She commended her husband’s then opponents for coming forward to help elect him as governor.
“The best I can do is encourage you as you work through the hurdles of getting the next Republican governor elected,” she said. “You, the people who are not running for office are so important to this race … There are some great Republicans running on the ticket. Each one has different views that make them stand out, but similar views in their passion to make them the next governor of the state of Maine … But you must come together, as Paul said, and continue to support the greater cause.”
As her speech came to a close, she paused for a moment, stating, very much to her surprise, she might cry.
“Although becoming Maine’s First Lady seemed like an impossible task, it really has been an honor. Supporting our men and women in uniform and their families was a perfect, perfect fit for me and I’m so proud of the state of Maine because of the way we treat our military.”
Mayer introduced gubernatorial candidates in alphabetical order and gave each 10 minutes to speak. Fredette cited his experience in the Maine House of Representatives – six years on the appropriations committee, sustaining 60 vetos from the governor’s office, fixing the pension system, helping push through tax cuts, and making significant cuts in beneficiaries to Medicaid.
“I have been on the front line for the last eight years, serving on the appropriations (committee) for the last six years in leadership. I’ve taken the bows and arrows … but it’s because I believe in what we’re doing, I believe in the state of Maine.”
Fredette also drew on his education and experience in the private sector – a bachelor’s degree from the University if Maine at Machias, University of Southern Maine where he earned his master’s degree as well as his law degree, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He has worked as a financial analyst for Bath Iron Works and presently has a small law practice in Newport.
“I have a small practice in a poor town in a poor part of the state, because it allows me to help people, and I want to continue to help Maine as your governor.”
Mayhew started off with how proud she is of being able to say she helped put a stop to senseless spending of DHHS dollars and put the needs of the elderly and disabled into high priority. Mayhew said her reason for running for governor is to put more money back into the pockets of taxpayers and to incentivize businesses to keep jobs in Maine and to grow more jobs.
“What we know is this. Government will never be a church, it’ll never be a parent, it’ll never be a grandparent, it’ll never be a Rotary club, and it will never grow jobs … This was what we inherited – a mindset that this is as good as it gets in Maine and that the answer must be to grow government and spend money like water.”
With trying to bring accountability to DHHS spending, a third of state government spending half of which remains unaccountable, Mayhew said she has in turn been characterized as Marie Antoinette. Her response, she said, is to “weather the storm” and to lead with her principles.
“The only thing we have done over the last eight years is to build a pathway out of poverty … It is far more compassionate to help someone earn their first paycheck than to earn their first welfare check.”
Mayhew said she is proud she has been able to take on the status quo of people in Augusta who operate on fear and negative attitudes feeding into what she calls a “welfare industrial complex.”
“We’ve got to get in the game and it isn’t enough to just say ‘We’re business-friendly’ – we’ve got to walk the walk … The welfare policies that dominated this state for far too long … have destroyed our work ethic – we need to get it back.”
Moody issued a disclaimer as he accepted the microphone: “If you’re looking for a politician as your next governor, there are plenty of candidates, I’m not that guy – I’m a business guy, an outsider.”
Moody drew on his upbringing as one of three siblings raised by a struggling single mother. He said he started tinkering with automobiles at 13 years old when he unofficially joined the workforce. He bought his first piece of property at 17 years old where the flagship for Moody’s Collision Center stands today.
“We turned our back on blue collar Maine … We need to remove … the bondage of bureaucracy and release and liberate our teenagers so they can get out into our communities and learn these important life skills before they go off to college … By making it easier for them, we haven’t made it better for them.”
Appointed by Gov. LePage to the boards of trustees of the university and community college systems, Moody said he was able to consolidate the “back room functions” in the systems and cut overhead administrative costs by over $83 million. That is what he wants to be able to do with government in Augusta, he said.
State District 20 Sen. Dana Dow spoke for gubernatorial candidate Garrett Mason and Barbara Ford, sister of candidate Mike Thibodeau, spoke for her bother. Dow praised District 22’s state senator on some of his policies. Ford highlighted her brother, District 11’s state senator and president of the senate, for being a supportive family man who sacrifices for those in need.
After the gubernatorial speeches, the straw poll opened during a 15-minute recess after which U.S. Senate candidates Eric Brakey and Max Linn, U.S. House of Representatives candidate Mark Holbrook and several candidates for the state legislature spoke while awaiting the straw poll results. Brakey described himself as an underdog conservative winning his seat against a longtime Democratic incumbent in a notoriously liberal district. Linn, once an Obama voter and registered Democrat, touted his ability to speak the same language as President Donald Trump and came down hard and direct in supporting core conservative principles shared with the far right. Holbrook drew on his immense education, but also his true-to-roots “redneck” heritage.
Before the results were revealed, voter Voit Ritch of Edgecomb said he favors Moody for governor.
“He’s done a lot for himself and for the state so far, and I’d like him to continue.”
Wiscasset voter Joe Grant, vice-chair of Lincoln County Republicans, said he thinks the Republicans have an excellent pool of candidates and expected that the caucus would weed some out to put up a good candidate come November.
“The thing that we need in Maine is a governor that can be a firewall between Maine and Washington, D.C. We need someone to protect our values,” said Grant. “What I’m looking for as a voter is someone who can stand between us and the crazies and be the adult in the room.”
The results of the straw poll were revealed after all public speaking: Mayhew, 68; Moody, 35; Fredette, 5; Thibodeau, 3; and Mason, 0.
Said Mayhew, "These results show how much my message of common sense and personal responsibility really resonates with the hardworking people here in Lincoln County."