High Income Voters Pull the Democratic Lever and Maine’s 90-year old Judge Wins Re-election
By Paul Mills
“Cape Elizabeth” – “Falmouth” Drop either of these names into a sentence and they are often likely to be uttered in the same breath as “Wealth” and “Republican.”
They are the towns who most consistently decorate the income summit of all demographic surveys of any two places in Maine.
These two Portland suburbs are also known for some of the most historically prestigious GOP names in the state. Cape Elizabeth, for example, is home to the only living former Republican Speaker of the Maine House, Richard Hewes, who served in the l970’s at the same time his fellow townsman, Richard N. Berry, was the Senate GOP Floor Leader. In the late l980’s, “the Cape” laid claim to House GOP Floor Leader Mary Clark Webster.
From Falmouth, emerged Mary Payson, who held Maine’s place on the Republican National Committee in the early 1980’s. Her Falmouth seat in the Maine Legislature was taken by a prestigious business leader, David Huber. As four term chair of the Appropriations Committee, Huber held almost as many purse strings to state government as the governor himself, just a generation ago.
This historic GOP allegiance and the current demographics would lead one to assume that Maine’s two most silk stocking communities would be taking their place at the crest of the 20l0 Republican wave.
Instead, both towns will each be returning Democrats to the Maine House. It’s the first time in over a l30-years that both towns simultaneously re-elected Democrats to these positions. From Falmouth it’s Mary Nelson. From Cape Elizabeth, it’s Cynthia Dill.
By the same token, some of Maine’s poorest communities are among its most reliably Republican. Piscataquis, Washington, and Aroostook Counties are now regularly colored red on Maine’s electoral map. In some of these regions, the Republican breakthroughs are occurring in previously Democratic strongholds. The Franco American St. John River Valley, for example, has just returned Republican Bernie Ayotte to the House even though until his election four years ago no Van Buren District Republican had been sent to the Maine House since l928.
This year, part of the transformation has been propelled by an explicit appeal to blue collar voters led by Party Chair Charles Webster. Webster’s People’s Veto drive that in June overturned the sales and income tax program passed by the Democratic legislature keynoted this approach. Though the law’s proposed reduction in income taxes would have typically benefited a Falmouth or Cape Elizabeth voter, the law’s sales tax expansion hit home hard in lower income communities.
The topsy turvy is also seen in urban areas long dominated by Democrats. Three of them will be sending Republicans to the State Senate this year. The most prominent among these is Augusta Mayor Roger Katz, elected to take Libby Mitchell’s place. Since Katz’s father, Bennett Katz, gave up the position in l980, three Democratic women have represented the capital city in the senate. Two of them, Beverly Daggett and Mitchell, rose to the senate presidency. Roger Katz, a former president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association and representing a district inhabited by thousands of state employees, may not be as eager as a few of his freshmen GOP colleagues to fracture the crockery of state government, however.
Governor Baldacci’s former seat in the senate, a Bangor district also usually held by Democrats, will be held by the first female Bangor state senator elected since l946. She’s Republican Nichi Farnham, a personable conservative who unseated Joe Perry. That Perry had chaired the Senate taxation committee at a time when the subject matter of the panel was a sore point with a restless electorate accelerated his descent.
Governor LePage’s Waterville area will be represented by Thomas Martin, Jr. Martin is the first Republican sent by the district to the senate since Dick Pierce’s election in l980.
The re-mapping of Maine’s political landscape has also followed a trend observed elsewhere. Such upscale Boston suburbs as Newton and Wellesley vote Democratic. So too does New York’s Upper East Side. Low income areas of the same states often vote Republican. As in Maine, the pattern is also driven by such cultural issues as gay rights, abortion, and gun control.
Political cartography in any event has seldom been so challenging.
Maine’s Oldest Judge Wins Re-Election:
Though some long time legislators were the victims of voter fatigue, all eight judges of probate up for election this year were re-elected. Among them were Jim Mitchell, husband of gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell and Carol Emery, wife of former Congressman David Emery. One of the more remarkable victors was Penobscot County’s Allan Woodcock, Jr. At 90, he is Maine’s oldest judge and if his resounding 65 percent re-election to a l3th four year term is any indication, also one of the most popular. From his first election to the Bangor City Council in l949, five terms in the Maine legislature, and 48-years as Probate Judge, Woodcock has been in elective office in Maine for 59 out of the last 6l-years.
This columnist heard Woodcock speak at the Judge’s home town Bangor GOP caucus earlier this year. The Judge’s personal agility and mental dexterity were at a high form as he explained both with insight and compassion the pleasures and challenges of his office. It’s clear he has retained much of the same dynamism that made him a close contender in a l95l Congressional election and propelled him to the position of State Senate Majority Floor Leader eight years later.
Whether one finds this month’s elections exhilarating or disenchanting, it’s hard not to find Woodcock’s sustainability inspiring.
His story is one of many fascinating pages in this month’s epic election chronicle.