Paul LePage won reelection as governor of Maine in a landslide, becoming the most powerful political figure in the state for the second time since he left office in 2014. While there is no doubt that Mr. LePage is deeply unpopular with many in Maine, and while he can’t exactly be described as a moderate Republican, by showing up on the ballot for two terms, his symbolic political weight became the second-biggest factor in determining this year’s election results.
Consider it evidence that Donald Trump, who could very well someday make a comeback in Maine, has helped push the Republican Party on to the extreme fringe.
Mr. LePage became governor in 2010 and won reelection in 2012 with a narrow margin over Independent Eliot Cutler, who ran as a Democrat. Mr. Cutler was a crusader against the Republican plan to eliminate health care for people with preexisting conditions, just as Maine was on the verge of creating its own health insurance exchange, the product of Mr. Cutler’s persistent advocacy. Mr. LePage won re-election in 2014 with 53 percent of the vote.
Mr. LePage ran for re-election on a similar “end the Maine Way” platform this year, blasting his opponents for working with Democrats in Washington. From his standpoint, this strategy worked, and he won by almost 20 points. He had the final say in choosing Mr. Steve Bannon’s young cohort as the state’s electors. Maine Republicans also arranged for their mapmakers to re-draw the state’s congressional districts to create a 20-3 Republican margin, ensuring that Mr. LePage would face no serious opposition in 2020.
So what does this mean for the future of the Maine Republican Party? There may be an opportunity for two insurgent candidates who stepped up in 2018 and are running for the U.S. Senate — former state senator Cynthia Dill and independent state representative Jared Golden — to establish themselves as challengers to Mr. LePage’s power in 2022. Mr. Golden appears to be getting the early-morning bus rides from Portland back to his work at a children’s rehabilitation center in Biddeford. “Every year is a new opportunity to win the race for the Republican nomination for governor in 2022,” he told the Bangor Daily News in April. “There’s no way to beat this man three times in a row. It’s a terrible proposition to try to do that.”
Mr. Golden doesn’t address Mr. LePage’s cult of personality, and he’s been surprisingly silent on the governor’s attack on Black Lives Matter and his urging of supporters to “stop messing around” during the midterm elections. “He’s a conservative who loves rural Maine.” Mr. Golden said of Mr. LePage in an interview with the National Journal. “He’s not going to lose that either.”
Mr. LePage certainly isn’t. And while Mr. Golden is still a long way off from the candidate who could take Mr. LePage down, he’s been working toward that goal for a while.
Read the full story at the Bangor Daily News
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