Governor LePage Swears In Constitutional Officers

Posted on January 13, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

    Political Pettiness? “Get Over It”

On Thursday, Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland) was finally sworn in to represent Senate District 25, a full month later than her colleagues, due to the recent recount snafu. Governor Paul LePage administered the oath of office in his chambers.

State Senator Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland) is welcomed by Senate after taking oath of office.

State Senator Cathy Breen (D-Cumberland) is welcomed by Senate after taking oath of office.

While this is not unusual practice, what happened later that day most definitely was.

In an unprecedented move, Maine’s three constitutional officers Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Treasurer Terry Hayes and Attorney General Janet T. Mills were informed that by the governor’s request, they would not be sworn into office publicly in the House of Representatives- but rather that LePage would administer their oaths privately in his chambers.

All three had served as Democratic legislators with Hayes serving as House Minority Whip in the 125th Legislature. While Dunlap and Mills still are Democrats, Hayes last year declared herself as an Independent while working as field director for Eliot Cutler’s gubernatorial campaign. This marks Dunlap’s second consecutive term in the office, as he previously served three terms from 2005-10 and returned for the 2013-14 term. Mills, Maine’s first female Attorney General, served from 2008-10 and again from 2012-4.

Terry Hayes was nominated by Republicans Senator Tom Saviello and former Speaker of the House Rep. Bob Nutting when she defeated incumbent Democrat Treasurer Neria Douglass in December. She ran unsuccessfully for House Speaker against Mark Eves in 2012. This is her first term as Treasurer and she made a special request of the governor for a public ceremony, as she had invited over 60 family members, friends and former legislative colleagues to witness her swearing in.

Governor Paul LePage administers the Oath of Office to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap privately in the governor’s Cabinet Room.

Governor Paul LePage administers the Oath of Office to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap privately in the governor’s Cabinet Room.


On Thursday afternoon, Dunlap and Mills were escorted separately into the governor’s Cabinet Room along with members of their staff, family and a handful of state senators to witness the quick ceremonies behind closed doors. Neither the public nor the press were allowed to witness, although this reporter did manage to obtain a photo of Secretary of State Dunlap’s swearing in by quickly passing a camera to a willing party as they went through the door.

Once both were sworn in, Governor LePage met with Hayes and her husband Stephen in the Hall of Flags and spoke for a few moments privately. Before a large crowd of invited guests including former legislators of all political stripes, he administered the oath of office publicly, congratulated her, waved to the crowd of witnesses and returned to his office.

It would be easy to chalk all of this up as yet another example of “Paul LePage being Paul LePage”, except this feels like the beginning of a concerning tonal trend. Earlier in the week and with much fanfare, the governor unveiled a new facility in South Portland that consolidates the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Labor (DOL) offices. The administration claimed that the new facility will save taxpayers more than $23 million. But when asked by the press about the difficulties the new location creates for those having to take a 40 minute bus ride to get to it, the governor quipped:

    “Get over it.”

Also this week, DHHS head Mary Mayhew stated that the federal government’s battle with the LePage administration over photos on EBT cards could lead to her department’s “questioning their ability to administrate the SNAP program”.

Let that sink in: Mayhew, considered to be mulling a future Blaine House run herself, is willing to deny 249,000 Maine families their federally allowed food assistance.

    “Get over it.”

But back to the private/ public oath of office brouhaha. The governor and his office have refused to comment on the matter at all.

    “Get over it.”

One anticipates this phrase will be repeated many times over the next four years.

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Cathy Breen of Falmouth (Finally) Wins Long-Contested Senate District 25 Race

Posted on December 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Was the dispute less about the Senate and more about back room shenanigans?

Chair Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) asks Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn a question during Tuesday's hearing. Also pictured (L-R) Senators Stan Gerzofsky, Garrett Mason, Bill Diamond, Dawn Hill, Andre Cushing and Tom Saviello.

Chair Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) asks Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn a question during Tuesday’s hearing. Also pictured (L-R) Senators Stan Gerzofsky, Garrett Mason, Bill Diamond, Dawn Hill, Andre Cushing and Tom Saviello.

Maine got a preview of what to expect in 2015 thanks to the now-resolved “Who won Senate District 25?” question last week. For a month, Mainers had speculated as to what occurred. It seemed impossible that 12% more ballots than actual participating voters materialized out of thin air; something funky had to have happened. But what? No one knew for sure, but everyone had an opinion.

A petition calling for officials to “investigate potential voter fraud” garnered 3200 signatures. Representative Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) took a sterner approach:

    “One of two things has to happen to put this matter to rest: the state attorney general or the U.S. Attorney should immediately conduct a thorough, independent criminal investigation of the circumstances of this discrepancy, one that involves questioning all relevant witnesses under oath and forensic experts.”

Senate President Mike Thibodeau went against Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s recommendations by provisionally seating Manchester:

    “The fact of the matter is that we have had a recount and the results of that recount left Cathy Manchester as the apparent winner. Because some folks are not happy with that outcome, they’re throwing around some pretty wild accusations.”

Why the rush? Simply put, Republicans needed her vote later that same day on the Constitutional officers, as they were within one vote of replacing Attorney General Janet T. Mills. Seating Manchester gave one more vote to their surprise candidate, Bill Logan, the GOP recount attorney.

Got that? Manchester was quickly shoved into office so she could vote for her own lawyer. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Thibodeau eventually named a seven member Investigative Committee. Spoiler alert: Democrat Cathy Breen’s originally reported 32 vote lead held.

Tuesday’s public hearing was held in the packed Legislative Council chamber with only live audio feed available for those not in the room.

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn was the first witness. Sworn in before a room full of media, lawyers, candidates and election officials, armed with a 4″ binder full of documentation and 25 years of recount experience, she confidently gave detailed testimony for hours. Frankly, it was pretty dry stuff and with 30 people scheduled to speak after her, a quick resolution seemed unlikely.

To break it down, imagine the 171 ballots as a deck of cards, but divided into 3 piles of 50 with a leftover stack of 21. Take each stack individually and divide into 3 smaller groups: Breen, Manchester and Other (No Votes). Write down the results from that first group, rinse and repeat for the rest of the stacks, then add them up. Long Island officials tallied 95 Breen, 65 Manchester and 11 Other equaling 171 votes cast, but the Augusta recount team came up with 21 more for Manchester, totaling 192. The ballots had been bundled with tally sheets designated as “A1, A2, A3 and A4″.

One 50 ballot lot had a total of 21 votes for Manchester, catching the eye of former Secretary of State Senator Bill Diamond (D-Windham). He remarked to Flynn, “On A3… it just jumped out at me, because Manchester had 21 votes … is there any way… that number could be, could have been… is there anything unusual about that number?”

Flynn had no answer and appeared momentarily flustered. She did not answer and continued to discuss the next lot.

The committee decided next to examine the ballots and it was quickly surmised that Diamond’s instincts had been spot-on, as the first lot had only 29 ballots instead of 50. A second recount immediately confirmed the 21 A3 ballots had been added in twice.

Manchester addressed the senators to announce her intention to offer a formal letter of resignation to President Thibodeau and congratulated Senator-elect Breen on her win.

The governor issued a statement, “I thank Senate President Thibodeau for his integrity throughout this process, in which liberals falsely accused Republicans of trying to manipulate the election with so-called ‘phantom ballots’. President Thibodeau followed the proper procedure to ensure the electoral process was upheld while awaiting the final decision from the Senate committee. It is unfortunate that Cathy Manchester had to endure a situation that was created entirely by the Secretary of State’s office during the recount.”

As for Thibodeau, his only response was, “You can’t read my word balloon, man.”

The Senate will meet in January and will have to vote to seat Breen.

—–

(Published in the 12/18/14 edition of DigPortland)

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UPDATED: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Recount*

Posted on December 1, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

UPDATE: Despite the fact that the panel of seven senators that will be tasked with resolving the SD 25 election has not even yet been selected and named, let alone met to take up the messy problem, the Maine State Senate webpage has been amended to give the win to the Republican candidate, Cathy Manchester:

    About the 127th Maine State Senate

    All members of the 127th Maine Senate have been elected to serve a two-year term. Of the 35 members, there are 21 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Eight are women (4 Republicans and 4 Democrats) and 27 are men (17 Republicans and 10 Democrats).

The link to NEW Contact Information for Members of the 127th Maine Senate (excel spreadsheet) continues to have Democrat Cathy Breen as the winner.

A pair of press conferences were held on Monday with each side repeating their stance as to whether what occurred was a mistake or something more deliberate:

    “It appears that there was just a clerical error that 21 ballots didn’t get counted. And we’re glad they’ve been counted. But we want to find out for sure,” said Senator Roger Katz, R-Augusta.

    “We expect Republicans to share this concern of potential ballot tampering because, again, this is not about a political party, it is about the integrity and confidence we can all have when we cast our ballot,” said outgoing Senate President Justin Alfond D-Portland.

———-

Senator Elect Nate Libby of Lewiston is congratulated by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Senator District 21 Elect Nate Libby of Lewiston is congratulated by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.


Before Thanksgiving, the Secretary of State’s office was tasked with settling a handful of disputed elections, as happens periodically. At one point, WCSH and MPBN reported there would be recounts in Senate District 2 (Aroostook County) and 13 (Lincoln County). But later it was confirmed that the requests for both had been withdrawn.

That left three races for resolution in Senate Districts 11, 21 and 25. These recounts were a result of either being automatically generated due to the closeness of the initial tallies or per request of a candidate. Preliminary totals via BDN:


    Senate District 11 (Waldo County), Democrat Jonathan Fulford versus Mike Thibodeau. According to unofficial election results compiled by the Bangor Daily News (the Secretary of State’s office has not yet posted its results), the incumbent Thibodeau won the seat 9,064 votes to 8,949, a 115-vote margin. Thibodeau, the former Senate minority leader, was nominated by his Republican peers Friday to be president of the Senate for the 127th Legislature, though that is subject to approval by the full Senate when it convenes in December.

    Senate District 21 (Lewiston), Democrat Nathan Libby versus Republican Patricia Gagne. According to the BDN’s unofficial results, Libby was victorious by a vote of 6,636 to 6,572, a 64-vote margin. This seat was formerly held by Democrat Margaret Craven, who opted not to seek re-election.

    Senate District 25 (part of Cumberland County), Democrat Catherine Breen versus Republican Cathleen Manchester. According to the BDN’s unofficial results, Breen took the seat by a vote of 10,897 to 10,890, a seven-vote margin. This seat was previously held by independent Richard Woodbury, who opted not to seek re-election.

The manual examinations included recounting all ballots separately for each municipality within the district, searching for any potentially overlooked ballots accidentally tucked into stacks of absentee envelopes, ensuring that the overseas ballots from other areas of the state were either not accidentally included or that overseas ballots were not accidentally omitted and investigation of all rejected ballots.

The process of recounting the ballots is methodical, meticulous, slow and tedious work, carried out by Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn and her staff in the Florian Room of the Maine Public Safety Building in Augusta. The entire proceedings, open to the public, included teams made of an official from the Secretary of State’s office working with both a registered Democratic and Republican volunteer. There were attorneys for both parties available throughout the recounts to weigh in on disputed ballots, irregularities and the like, as well as other support staff tabulating the final tallies before the final certification for each race.

Results were made public by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in press releases and on Facebook.

Senate District 25 recount began at 9am.

Senate District 25 recount began at 9am on November 18.

    (Friday, Nov. 14) Senate District 11: “In the State Senate District 11 recount, results show that Republican Michael Thibodeau is the winner. Jonathan Fulford (D) received 8,974 votes, while Thibodeau received 9,109 in the recount.”

    (Monday, Nov. 17) Senate District 21: “The State Senate District 21 (City of Lewiston) recount is now complete. Results show that Democrat Nathan Libby remains the winner, with 6,646 votes to Republican Patricia Gagne’s 6,563.”

    (Tuesday, Nov. 18) Senate District 25:

And here’s where “a funny thing happened”.

By 5 pm on the 18th, not only was there no clear winner after all of the present ballots were re-examined, but it was told to this reporter that a box of ballots had been discovered to still be in Westbrook and being brought to Augusta by Maine State Police- an unusual turn of events that meant a further delay of SD 25’s final results.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap

Even funnier- later on that evening, Secretary of State’s office issued the following statement:

    The State Senate District 25 final results will be decided by the Senate. The recount showed a reversal in the apparent winner, with Catherine Breen (D) getting 10,916 votes and Cathleen Manchester (R) getting 10,927, but the results were not accepted by both candidates.

    When the Legislature convenes in January, its standing Senatorial Vote Committee will review the situation and make a recommendation to the full Senate on which candidate should be seated for the full term. (The committee is made up of four majority and three minority members.) The Senate will then make the final determination of which candidate to seat, typically no later than January.”

Soon it was learned that at the center of the dispute were not ballots from Westbrook, but rather almost 2 dozen new GOP ballots from Long Island. Immediately calls for a full investigation into potential voter fraud began:

    Unanswered questions remain about 21 ballots from the town of Long Island that can’t seem to be attributed to any voter. The ballots were discovered on Nov. 18, the night of the recount, and all of them contained a vote for Republican Cathleen Manchester of Gray, who had requested the recount.

    During an election, wardens at each polling place keep track of which registered voters have cast ballots. This ensures that no one gets to vote twice. The incoming voter list, or “voter manifest,” in Long Island indicated that 171 residents cast ballots either in person or absentee in this year’s election.

    Attorneys Katherine Knox (D) and Bill Logan (R) examine a disputed ballot.

    Attorneys Katherine Knox (D) and Bill Logan (R) examine a disputed ballot.

    That’s the same number of votes presented by warden and Town Clerk Brenda Singo in unofficial results relayed on election night to the Bangor Daily News and the Associated Press. Long Island, a town of about 230 residents, has only one polling place, and Singo was the only warden.

    However, when the locked box of ballots was opened during the recount, 192 ballots were found. Put simply, there are 21 more ballots from Long Island than there are documented voters.

Incoming Senate President elect Mike Thibodeau, who himself had been subject to a recount, had this to say:

    “I think the committee could convene and go over the results on swearing-in day. We’ve got to figure out if Cathy Manchester has the most votes. It’s unfortunate to throw around terms like that without some sort of substantial evidence. The fact of the matter is that we have had a recount and the results of that recount left Cathy Manchester as the apparent winner. Because some folks are not happy with that outcome, they’re throwing around some pretty wild accusations.”

Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) represents House District 47, which consists of Yarmouth, Long Island and Chebeague Island, has called for Attorney General Janet Mills to look into the matter.

    “One of two things has to happen to put this matter to rest: the state attorney general or the U.S. Attorney should immediately conduct a thorough, independent criminal investigation of the circumstances of this discrepancy, one that involves questioning all relevant witnesses under oath and forensic experts.

    Senate Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing, President Mike Thibodeau and Majority Leader Garret Mason

    Senate Asst Majority Leader Andre Cushing, President Mike Thibodeau and Majority Leader Garret Mason

    Our state Constitution provides that it’s up to the Senate to decide the qualifications of its members. However, that does not absolve state or federal prosecutors from doing their job. The Senate president-elect says he will appoint a special committee to look into the matter. However, whether or how independently that investigation is conducted is up to them. Because a majority of the committee will be members of the same party as the recount winner, the outcome is bound to be suspect as politically biased unless the investigation is truly impartial and thorough.

    It’s entirely appropriate for a political body to make political decisions, as we do on proposed legislation or nominations. Sometimes, however, the Legislature must act in a quasi-judicial role, which is not easy.

    Years ago, I was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in an impeachment case concerning removal of a federal judge for alleged conspiracy to commit bribery. The case came to the House with a massive record from a criminal trial, grand jury and independent counsel’s investigation. Nevertheless, the House also conducted its own investigation, subpoenaing and deposing witnesses under oath, conducting forensic investigations, etc. We then presented our case first to the House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate. For the most part, the proceedings followed judicial rules of evidence. The judge was impeached, convicted and removed from office.

    This is what a quasi-judicial legislative inquiry should look like. Whether the Maine Senate is prepared to go to this length remains to be seen. Frankly, they don’t have the resources or the expertise, even if they had the will.

    That’s why we should leave it to professional prosecutors to conduct the inquiry. The Senate can seat whom it wants, but whether that decision stands or is set aside by the courts would very likely hinge on the outcome of a professional inquiry. Nothing less will do.

*Apologies to Stephen Sondheim et al

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Cathy Breen Announces State Senate District 25 Campaign Run, Earns Early Endorsements

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

From a press release:

    FALMOUTH, Maine- Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, former two-time chairwoman of the Falmouth Town Council, recently announced she is running for the State Senate seat currently held by Dick Woodbury. Woodbury has announced he is not seeking re-election. Senate District 25 encompasses the municipalities of Gray, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, part of Westbrook, Chebeague Island, and Long Island.

    cathy breen sd 21“It’s an exciting time to enter state government because Maine faces so many challenges and opportunities. I hope to bring my practical experience and passion for public service to Augusta. I’d be honored to represent the citizens of Senate District 25,“ said Breen in a press release.

    “Cathy is a passionate public servant who has experience advocating successfully for her community,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said in a press release. “Her voice and her values would make her a welcome addition to the Maine Senate.”

    Breen was a strong proponent of controlled growth and conservation of open space on the Falmouth Town Council from 2005-2011. She shepherded the passage of the 2007 Open Space referendum, one of the most successful local land and wildlife habitat conservation efforts in Maine history. In addition, Breen consistently championed low property tax rates.

    Breen promoted improved efficiency in local and regional services during her six years as Falmouth’s representative on the Greater Portland Council of Governments. A strong advocate for public transit including Metro bus service in Falmouth, Breen participated in long-term transportation planning with the Coastal Corridor Coalition composed of Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth and Freeport.

    Breen brings traditional Democratic values to the issues, supporting high quality public education, economic growth that respects Maine’s natural resources, open and efficient government, increased access to quality health care, marriage equality, and economic security for Mainers of all income levels. She supports the expansion of Medicaid to all eligible Mainers and the restoration of state revenue sharing with municipalities.

    She serves on the Board of Directors of Spurwink Services, a statewide organization that serves children and adults with behavioral and mental health needs and developmental disabilities.

    Breen has lived in Falmouth since 2000. She received a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s of education from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She is married to attorney Jay S. Geller and has two teen-aged children.

Via Cathy Breen for State Senate Facebook page:

The Cathy Breen for State Senate Campaign was honored to earn the early endorsements of State Representatives Mark Dion, Ann Peoples, Mary Nelson and Anne Graham.

****

    In an unusual move in a contested Democratic primary, four state legislators have endorsed Cathy Breen for State Senate now that her candidacy is official. She filed her petitions last week.

    The legislators represent municipalities in District 25, which encompasses Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, Gray, Chebeague Island, Long Island and northern Westbrook.

    Breen was a Falmouth Town Councilor for six years, two of them as chair.

    She is opposed by Stephen Woods, who ran as an independent for U.S. Senate in 2012 and withdrew shortly before Election Day. Within a month, he announced as a Democratic candidate for governor but later pulled out when U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud entered the race.

    “I support Cathy Breen’s candidacy for the State Senate because we need someone who is smart, experienced and sensitive to the needs of Maine’s working families,” said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland. “Cathy will add vision, value and insight to Democratic leadership in our Statehouse.”

    “I enthusiastically endorse Cathy,” said Rep. Mary Nelson, D-Falmouth. “As a Town Councilor, she helped ensure that Falmouth has high-quality public schools and built partnerships between government, the private sector, and community organizations. I know she will listen, carefully evaluate, and work tirelessly to expand economic opportunity and make state government work for her constituents.”

    “I’m endorsing Cathy Breen because of her leadership in support of mass transit which saves energy and cuts transportation costs for riders,” said Rep. Ann Peoples, D-Westbrook, who serves on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. “She advocated for the Metro bus in Falmouth for six years and participated in regional long-term transportation planning along the coast, from Falmouth to Freeport. We need her expertise in the Senate.”

    Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, also strongly supports Breen. “She will work for health care for all and particularly for families who struggle to make ends meet. Cathy will hit the ground running and will work for all the people in her district as she did when she was a Town Councilor.”

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