Politics & Other Mistakes: System upgrade

6 mins read
Al Diamon
Al Diamon

For a small state like Maine to have any influence on national events, it has to elect exceptional people to the U.S. House of Representatives. Unlike the 100-member U.S. Senate, where arcane rules and an acute partisan split require respectful treatment even for members with the charisma of feral pigs, anybody in the 435-member House lacking superior political skills gets buried.

Which accounts for why, as he roams the state seeking votes for governor, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud leaves a trail of freshly turned loam.

It’s not that Michaud, who’s represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District for more than a decade, is completely worthless. In a chamber rife with extremist whackjobs, his amiable bumbling barely rises to a level worth criticizing. Or noticing.

With the pedestrian Michaud moving on to either the Blaine House or obscurity or both, Maine is presented with an opportunity to upgrade its delegation. Unfortunately, both major parties are offering downgrades.

In his long career in politics, Michaud rarely said anything stupid, mostly because he rarely said anything. This approach might better serve Democrat Troy Jackson, the state Senate majority leader. Jackson makes memorable comments only when he makes dopey ones, having adopted the style preferred by many professional athletes and frequent posters on the As Maine Goes website.

Last month, after the U.S. Department of Labor released a report critical of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s meddling in unemployment cases, Jackson called for the governor’s impeachment. It’s not clear whether Jackson knew the word means indicting a public official for serious misconduct, with one source suggesting the candidate thought it had something to do with pelting LePage with peaches.

In any case, Jackson edged away from that demand shortly thereafter, allegedly because peaches aren’t a Maine crop. Rumors he wanted the governor impotatoed couldn’t be confirmed.

This isn’t the first time Jackson has reacted without checking with his brain. Or somebody’s brain. In 2013, he sponsored a bill to amend Maine’s Constitution to deny pensions to governors who served only one term. He made no secret of the measure being meant to punish first-termer LePage, whose re-election chances remain iffy, because the governor advocated restricting state workers’ pensions. “[A]t a time when Gov. LePage and others are asking state employees to sacrifice,” Jackson said, “even at the expense of their own pensions which were promised to them when they signed their contracts, the governor should be held to the same standard.”

Or at least imappled.

Jackson’s bill went nowhere – even with Democrats.

Dems can’t claim a monopoly on vindictive over-reactions by under-qualified and overly ambitious would-be representatives. That’s because the GOP is burdened with Bruce Poliquin – a former state treasurer who’s run expensive, self-financed campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate without a hint of success.

Poliquin lives in the 2nd District in the same sense that Donald Trump lives in a cardboard box by a sewage outlet. If, by some unlikely occurrence, voters send him to Washington, they won’t have to worry about him getting homesick for northern Maine.

Poliquin’s resume is studded with efforts to save money. For instance, he engineered the ouster (imcherrying?) of the director of the Maine State Housing Authority because of wasteful spending and liberal views. At the same time, he was saving himself a few bucks by improperly registering his property (located in the 1st District) for a tax break. He also appeared to violate the state Constitution, which forbids the treasurer from engaging “in any business of trade or commerce,” by developing a condo project and expanding a beach club he owned (in the 1st District). He only included those operations on his financial disclosure form after critics noted their absence.

Poliquin used to be as thoughtlessly outspoken as Jackson – although with better grammar and vocabulary – but after his foibles gained public attention, he retreated behind a screen of carefully worded press releases. His unedited public pronouncements are so rare, there’s some question as to whether he still exists.

While Poliquin and Jackson appear to be a step down from the existing congressman, their primary opponents barely raise the bar. Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain co-sponsored Jackson’s screw-the-guv-out-of-his-pension bill and recently skipped an important legislative committee meeting due to an illness that didn’t keep her from attending a campaign fundraiser. Republican Kevin Raye lost to Michaud in 2012 by running a campaign making him appear even more irrelevant than the incumbent.

Maine needs a top-notch congressional delegation. It’s doubtful the new representative from the 2nd District will meet that standard. We’ll be lucky if he or she isn’t impeared.

I mean, impaired.

Impomegranate my impertinence with imagination by emailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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