Maine GOP Plays Musical Chairs, as Republicans Name Rick Bennett 3rd Party Head Since November

Posted on July 23, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

bennettOver the weekend, the Maine Republican Party selected current Trucost board member, former board member of the Maine Heritage Policy Center and co-Senate President Rick Bennett of Norway as their third chair since last year. Via MRP press release:

      The Maine Republican Party State Committee has elected former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett, as the new Chairman of the Maine Republican Party.

    The vote, cast by the party’s 77-person state committee, demonstrated broad support from all areas of the Republican Party, with a majority of members from across the party’s diverse areas pledging support for Bennett in advance and an even greater number delivering votes the day of the election.

    “The Maine Republican Party is ready to make the case to the people of Maine that the liberal leadership and policies of Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves are bad for the Maine people, bad for Maine’s small businesses, bad for Maine’s economy, and bad for the generations of Mainers who will inherit our decisions,” Mr. Bennett said.

    Susan Morissette from her "For the People" website, poses with Bruce Poliquin. 'Nuff said.

    Susan Morissette from her “For the People” website, poses with Bruce Poliquin. ‘Nuff said.


    “It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work electing Republicans who will grow Maine’s economy, protect Maine’s small businesses, control the size and scope of government and give the next generation of Mainers a stronger, more prosperous Maine than we inherited,”
    Mr. Bennett concluded.

    In addition to electing Mr. Bennett as new party Chairman, the Maine Republican State Committee also elected former State Representative and current Kennebec County Republican Chair Hon. Susan Morissette as new Vice Chair.

Morisette previously served one term as HD 54 Representative of Winslow before losing her re-election bid to Catherine Nadeau.

gop-splitBut one needs a scorecard to keep up with all of the scandals, claims of manipulation/ disregard of party rules (see RNC2012), changes in leadership and controversies in the Maine Republican Party since 2010- oh, how the party of Margaret Chase Smith and Bill Cohen has fallen in recent years!

When Paul LePage first was elected Governor in 2010, Maine also witnessed both State House chambers go from blue to red- the first time that the state had gone to Republican control in both the Executive and Legislative branches in over 40 years. It heralded a time of devastating party splintering and questionable ethics such as the state had never before seen and was part of a much larger picture nationally.

The chair of the Maine Republican Party at the time, Charlie Webster, claimed much of the credit for the flip, But then… well… Charlie Webster quickly went from being “the man” to being “Crazy Uncle Charlie, that guy that has to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner”, telling more and more wild tales:

June 2011: Democrats “steal elections” via same day registration:

    “If you want to get really honest, this is about how the Democrats have managed to steal elections from Maine people,” Webster told a columnist for the Portland Press Herald in a piece published Friday. “Many of us believe that the Democrats intentionally steal elections.”

July 2011: Webster claimed that UMF College Republicans “parked their vans” on Election Day in 2010, as to prevent students getting to the polls, and submitted a list of 206 names to then Secretary of State Charlie Summers to investigate for voter fraud:

None was found and the accusations/ witch hunt resulted in national attention.

Sept 2011: Webster, still determined that SOME fraud had indeed occurred, insisted that “Canadians were able to come across the border and vote illegally”:

    “Do we want people who live in a motel deciding who we send to the state legislature when they never vote again in Maine?” he asked. “Do we want people who are illegal aliens — illegal Americans — from Canada or another state? … Do we want them influencing our elections?”

LD 1373, “An Act To Preserve the Integrity of the Voter Registration and Election Process”, was introduced by Rep. Rich Cebra (R-Naples) that was passed by the GOP-led 125th Legislature and supported by Secretary of State Charlie Summers and signed law by Governor Paul LePage, went to referendum in November- and was soundly smacked down by Maine voters by a 60-40 margin:


    “Maine voters sent a clear message: No one will be denied a right to vote,” said Shenna Bellows, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “Voters in small towns and big cities voted to protect our constitutional right.”

    “We felt good coming in and we knew we had run a better campaign,” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said. “It feels good to get a win but this isn’t the last vote of 2011, it’s the first of 2012. We need to take this momentum into next year.”

Nov 2012: Grant’s statement of the Rich Cebra sponsored bill LD 1376’s 2011 defeat being the “first vote of 2012” proved true, as Democrats regained control of both legislative chambers.

maine-gop-chair-suspicious-of-dozens-of-black-votersCharlie Webster then announced that he would not seek re-election and held an interview with WCSH’s Don Carrigan and still determined that there was indeed voter fraud occurring within the state, claimed that it was being committed by “dozens of black people” travelling into towns. The story garnered more national headlines and Webster later apologized for his remarks.

Then the termed-out of the Legislature Rich Cebra came in as the new party chair, somehow managed to make an even bigger mess than the one he had found time and time and time again… and promptly left- after seven months with no warning.

Cebra_ethicsOn July 3, news broke that Maine Republican Party Chair and former Rep. Rich Cebra abruptly stepped down from his position as head of the party amid multiple controversies, and that his Vice Chair Beth O’Connor had given notice a few days’ prior as well. O’Connor originally planned to run against Cebra for the top slot, but chose at the time to pull her name before the vote.

From Dec 2012:

    “It’s a new day in Maine,” said Cebra, who praised O’Connor’s withdrawal as a sign that the Maine Republican Party “is a unified party that works.” He said he planned to focus initially on “ground work,” building the party’s base by strengthening local and county committees.

    John Frary, a committee member and party stalwart from Farmington, described O’Connor’s withdrawal as “a noble gesture for party unity.”

So much for that idea!

Rep Rich Cebra of Naples, who also served from Dec 2012 to July 2013 as MRP Chair before abruptly resigning.

Rep Rich Cebra of Naples, who also served from Dec 2012 to July 2013 as MRP Chair before abruptly resigning.

    “Cebra has been a big disappointment,” Vic Berardelli, a Republican state committee member from Penobscot County and chairman of the Maine Republican Liberty Caucus, said by phone Wednesday. “I stuck my neck out and lost some good friendships in my efforts to get Rich Cebra elected as Maine Republican Party chairman. He did not have the management and fundraising ability or people skills to bring factions together.”

About that fundraising and money management… one wonders what the numbers actually DO show!

More previous reaction from Charlie Webster and Bruce Poliquin:

    Webster said he had heard a couple of days ago that Cebra might resign, but he said he didn’t know why and had no other information.

    Among those eyeing the job is former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, who said he is considering the post after being approached by a number of people asking him to take the job. Poliquin is also considering running in the 2014 2nd District congressional race, now that Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is likely going to challenge LePage in next year’s gubernatorial election.

    “It’s a very difficult job and it’s important to be able reach out to all factions of the Republican party to make sure our message gets out about limited government and more economic growth and more jobs for Maine families,” he said. “It’s critical to get that message out. I’m sure we’ll find somebody who can do that.”

So, here’s the mess that Webster and Cebra left for Bennett- time will tell as to what he chooses to do- or even CAN do- with it.

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Democrats to Republicans: Time to Balance Budget, Roll Back LePage/ 125th Legislature’s Unfunded “Tax Cuts for Wealthy”

Posted on May 30, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Democratic legislators urged their Republican colleagues on Wednesday to “delay tax breaks for the wealthy” as a means of helping balance the budget and avoid property tax hikes. The unfunded tax breaks, passed two years ago, were championed by Governor Paul LePage and the 125th GOP-controlled Legislature.

Speaker Eves takes question from media, as Governor LePage's office broadcasts a message of "No New Taxes"

Speaker Eves takes question from media, as Governor LePage’s office broadcasts overhead a message of “No New Taxes”.

    “In order to pay for a tax break that largely benefits the wealthy, Governor LePage’s budget increases property taxes on the middle class and working people, on seniors and small businesses, on homeowners and renters,” said Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick. “Putting these tax breaks for the wealthy on hold is the responsible option, we can’t just pass the buck.”

    Eves continued, “The question before us is not whether we raise taxes or not; but instead, will we raise taxes on working and middle class people, on our seniors and small businesses? Or can we simply agree that right now Maine can’t afford an unfunded tax break for the wealthy?

    More than 60 towns and school districts have signed resolutions against the LePage budget. The Maine Municipal Association says the LePage budget is a $424 million shift to municipalities and property taxpayers.

    Delaying the entire tax cut, including the income tax and estate tax changes, would restore more than $400 million in revenues. Delaying the tax breaks was recommended by the Taxation Committee (PDF) after months of public hearings on the budget and tax proposals.

    photo (8)Now is not the time for tax cuts that we can’t afford. Our economy simply isn’t growing at a pace to be able to afford a tax break that will primarily benefit the wealthy,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland. “We need a budget that reflects Maine values, and a budget that we can afford. Raising the property taxes of working Mainers to pay for tax cuts for the rich is neither.

    The tax cuts passed in 2011 provides the top one percent, those earning more than $350,000 per year, a tax cut of almost $3,000, while middle income families will see a return of a little more than $100, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rich Cebra, a former member of the 125th GOP Legislature, pounced immediately with a mass fear-mongering fundraising email. Some portions:

    Liberal Taxation Committee Revives Tax Hikes Of Past In Committee Recommendations

    The old saying, that you “can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig” is certainly true in Augusta with Democrats in control. They are up to the same old tactics they have been practicing for 40 plus years, and the Maine Republican Party is speaking out.

    In a letter to the Appropriations Committee, the Democrat controlled taxation committee has proposed putting some new lipstick on the same old pig and trying to trick you into thinking they have new ideas. They don’t. The letter contains a heavy dose of rhetoric for a legislative committee, as well as recommendations for a massive middle class tax hike.

    In short, Democrats have just said that they don’t care about pro-growth tax reform, they don’t care about middle class Maine people, they don’t care about Maine’s small businesses, and they don’t care about making government more affordable. In fact, all they do care about is taking as much of your money as possible, and taking it as quickly and efficiently as possible. If that means putting new lipstick on the same old pig, that’s what they’re going to do, and it’s what they just did.

Pretty fiery stuff- except the facts do not fall on the side of Cebra and the GOP. From 2011:

    Included in the budget is a provision that would raise the retirement age of public workers from 62 to 65, cut Maine’s prescription drug and health coverage for working parents program, end $400 of property tax relief for more than 75,000 middle-income Maine households, and freeze cost of living adjustments for state employee retirees — which already provides a meager average pension of only $18,500 per year.

    Yet at the same time, LePage is pushing through hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts. While most Mainers will receive a tax cut under the governor’s plan, the lion’s share of the cuts will go to the wealthiest of state residents.

Here is MECEP’s analysis:

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(UPDATED) Maine Gov LePage Threatens Blanket Vetoes & Govt Shutdown; Dem Majority Leaders Fire Back

Posted on March 1, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

(11:45 am UPDATE– A media availability press conference has now been announced for later this afternoon with the entire Democratic majority leadership members.)

A busy morning, as Governor Paul LePage, just returning from a “blink and you missed it” trip to DC and his annual Florida family vacation has once again blustered himself into some media coverage that is sure to get more national attention:

huffy lepage

    During a Bangor radio station interview this morning, Gov. Paul LePage said he will veto every bill that crosses his desk until his plan to repay hospitals goes into law. That includes the bill that will allow bars to open at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Sunday this year.

    LePage was speaking to Rik Tyler, on the George Hale/Rik Tyler Show on WVQM 101.3 and WVOM 103.9. The governor said he will veto any and all bills — including his own — until the emergency legislation he submitted is signed into law. LePage said he notified legislators of that intent last week.

More via Portland Press Herald:

    Tyler, the radio show host, was caught off guard by the governor’s veto comment. LePage elaborated, saying the Legislature had passed emergency legislation to allow bars to open early on Sunday for St. Patrick’s Day and an emergency moratorium on public inspection of concealed weapons permit holder information.

    LePage urged passage of the concealed weapons bill.

    “If that’s more important than paying the hospitals then I think we have a problem,” LePage said.

    He added, “Until they move forward … I’m not going to move forward on any legislation,” he said.

    LePage added that the veto threat applied to his own bills.

Within hours, some of the Democratic majority leaders fired back with the following press release:

    DEMOCRATS DENOUNCE LEPAGE SHUTDOWN, VETO THREATS

    Democrats call on Republicans to reject “do nothing” politics

    AUGUSTA — Democratic leaders on Friday denounced Governor Paul LePage’s threat to halt the work of the Legislature by abusing his veto power and shutting down state government until his hospital repayment plan becomes law.

    goodall“In one week we’ve heard ongoing threats to shutdown state government if Republicans don’t get what they want. Today, the Governor promised to veto every bill that comes across his desk if he doesn’t get what he wants. This is not governing. This is not leadership. It is the type of political gamesmanship that doesn’t belong here in Maine,” said Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall of Richmond. “I suspect the people of Maine want leaders not schoolyard bullies. We have serious challenges facing our economy and we should be focused on finding solutions not making threats.”

    During a radio appearance early Friday morning, the Governor promised that he will veto all bills that cross his desk until the Legislature passes his borrowing scheme to make the final payment to Maine hospitals. Republicans have failed to acknowledge that the hospital debt has been continuously and increasingly paid back, thanks largely to a plan developed by Democrats. The Governor’s threat to shutdown state government follows Republican House Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s prediction of a shutdown last week.

    Seth Berry File Photo 2012 cropped“First, Republican leaders start throwing around the possibility of a state government shutdown and now the Governor is threatening to go on a veto spree. This type of brinksmanship is even worse than what we’re seeing from the GOP in Washington. Maine people deserve better than this from their leaders,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham.

    Democrats are focused on legislation to strengthen Maine’s workforce, public schools, and the middle class. The Governor is threatening those and other important efforts.

    jeff mccabe“The Governor is telling us it’s his way or the highway. His obstructionist bullying will derail important legislation on domestic violence, public safety and economic development,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. We call on our Republican colleagues to reject such do-nothing politics.

    The LePage administration is pushing a convoluted plan that pulls the state’s wholesale liquor business into a deal that would put Maine in debt to Wall Street to make the final payment to hospitals. The plan gambles the value of the liquor contract and is being used to hold hostage other bonds that already have approval from Maine voters.

    troy jackson nmt
    “Today the Governor told the people of Maine that the hospitals are more important than they are. I disagree,”
    said Assistant Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash. “I think the people of Maine want lawmakers focused on getting folks back to work, earning more money and improving our schools.”

    Maine has paid more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the last decade.

    Jackson added, “We need to get the best deal for Maine and that requires us working together. I think everyone agrees that ten years ago we rushed this deal and could’ve done better. Now, we cannot gamble the future of Maine because the Governor is having another temper tantrum.”

Interesting timing for the latest outburst from LePage- could it be to deflect attention from the fact that starting today, all of the… um… “inaccuracies” that former Rep. Jon McKane and the rest of the 125th GOP legislators told to get LD 1333/ PL 90 shoved into law are being exposed as such?

    About 7,000 Maine customers of Mega Life and Health Insurance Co. will be affected by a rate change set to take effect March 1.

    While some policyholders will see their health premium costs drop by nearly 33 percent, others will be hit with rate hikes of up to 47 percent, according to Mega’s filing with the Maine Bureau of Insurance. The average rate increase across all policyholders amounts to 6.5 percent.

    The rate change affects Mega’s individual policyholders, or people who purchase health coverage on their own rather than through an employer. The 6,990 policies involved provide coverage to about 12,600 people, including the policyholders’ dependents.

It is also worth noting that one of the loudest critics of Dirigo Health, created by the Maine Legislature in 2003 to offer an affordable option to small businesses or self-employed individuals, and a co-sponsor of PL 90/ LD 1333, termed out former Rep. Jonathan McKane of Newcastle, was selected to sit on Dirigo Health’s board.

More to come.

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Maine Governor LePage’s State of the State Address… and the Silence of the Elephants

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

100_5149A smart political analyst once taught me an important lesson: “Don’t look for what IS being said but rather for what ISN’T being said.”

Never has that been more clear as to provide insight than in the deafening local Republican silence, post-Governor LePage’s State of the State address.

Case in point: Despite the best and multiple efforts of the Governor’s office in the hours preceding his address to drive forth usage of hashtag #MESOTS, 2 of his strongest allied sites, AsMaineGoes and MHPC/ The Maine Wire, failed to comply.

At all.

Here is the Governor’s missive, delivered at 10 am Tuesday morning:

The Maine Republican Party dutifully retweeted as per the previous instructions and MRP Chair Rich Cebra’s office, under the auspices of former Marden IT guy/ LePage right hand man Jason Savage, immediately sent out a supportive press release after the governor concluded his remarks.

Good boy, Jason. Get promotion.

But as mentioned earlier sometimes, what is most telling is not the conversations themselves- but what ISN’T being said.

Strangely enough, two of the Governor’s staunchest allies have been silent.

As Maine Goes has not had a single thread on the Governor’s address, not even on their public forum. And they have not tweeted since Monday- not a peep in reaction.

Here is their last tweet:

Guess “loyalty” isn’t a lesson your lapdog has mastered, eh Governor?

An aberration? Nope.

Maine Heritage Policy Council and their “online newspaper”, ‘The Maine Wire’, also have been absolutely completely and eerily silent. MHPC last gave the world via Twitter the following deeply profound and compelling insight into the minds to Maine’s conservative members and their interests, which their other Twitter account, er, independent online newspaper retweeted as their most recent pearl of wisdom:

Some days, ya can’t make this stuff up…

Seriously. Nothing since then at all, on all three of these twitter feeds and sites.

No RT shares of the Governor’s own very active Twitter account, no shared opinion pieces supporting LePage…

Nada.

One wonders why.

Nationally, there has been some strong reaction from formerly friendly conservative quarters, as DC based group Tax Foundation (pdf warning) blasted Governor LePage’s public admission that with his proposed budget, he is indeed increasing taxes, as reported in the Kennebec Journal (LePage Budget ‘sneaks’ tax increase) and Bangor Daily News (Taxation watchdogs accuse LePage of ‘stealth’ hike).

Just last October, this same group raised Maine’s business tax rating from 37th to 30th.

And it wasn’t just irate conservatives who interpreted LePage as meaning that taxes would indeed be raised. Ethan Strimling in the BDN had this: Did LePage just say he was willing to raise taxes?

    What strikes me is his inclusion and emphasis on “right now.” He could have easily said “Let’s not raise taxes” and left it at that. But he didn’t.

    And not only did he not leave “right now” out, he actually emphasized it. It struck me the moment he said it, and in watching the video I am more convinced.

    Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but that sure sounds like an opening to Democrats that he would be willing to consider revenues in the long term. Perhaps in exchange for tax cuts today.

A Portland Press Herald editorial called for rolling back the unfunded 125th Legislature’s tax cuts for the wealthy, sponsored by the Governor:

    “The last Legislature passed a huge tax cut, about $400 million over two years, which did not go into effect until January and has never been paid for. The size of the tax cut is roughly what cities and towns would lose without revenue sharing, the homestead exemption and other proposed program cuts.

    Delaying those income tax cuts would not raise taxes. It would keep them at the 2012 rate.”

The tone of the Governor’s address was uncharacteristically conciliatory and cordial; perhaps his finally meeting with the Democratic majority leaders the day before broke the ice for some real progress in Augusta.

But one wonders what whispered conversations are quietly going on behind closed doors…

hannibalAnd so the question must be asked: “Well, Cebra – have the elephants stopped screaming?”

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