NEWS CENTER Maine’s Political Brew: Sunday, October 23, 2022

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This week’s analysts are former Republican state senator Phil Harriman and longtime Democratic activist Betsy Sweet.

MAINE, USA — The Maine Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee voted 8-1 on Wednesday to file suit against the Department of Health and Human Services to access records of four children’s deaths in 2021. 

The attorney general has said it would violate state law to turn these documents over to them.

It was a bipartisan vote by the committee, but could it be a political problem for Gov. Janet Mills as we approach Election Day?

“I don’t think so,” Phil Harriman said. “For the [Maine] House and the Senate, Democrats, and Republicans, to agree on this tells you that there’s a pretty strong desire by the Legislature to get some answers.”

Betsy Sweet feels this transcends party politics. 

“I’m really glad that they came together to ask for this information. We have to get to the bottom of what’s happening, why we’re having so many kids in crisis,” Sweet said. 

Record levels of money, much of it from out-of-state interests, are pouring into legislative races. For example, more than $200,000 has been spent to support the re-election of Democratic Senate President Troy Jackson, who is being challenged by Republican Rep. Sue Bernard in Aroostook County.

Harriman called it alarming to some, but not surprising, to see so much money spent by outsiders to influence the direction of the Maine Legislature.

Sweet said because of gridlock in Congress, “A lot of really important issues like reproductive choice are coming to the state level. So now, outside groups that have a national interest are looking at state legislatures across the country and saying, ‘This is where the actions going to be.'”

In an interview on NEWS CENTER Maine’s “207” program, former Gov. Paul LePage, who is running for a third term, denied ever saying the 2020 presidential election was stolen. He told Rob Caldwell, “Joe Biden won the election, period. I never said that he didn’t win. Please look at the record because I don’t believe I’ve ever said that.”

The record showed that in an interview on WGAN radio ten days after the election, LePage said, “This is clearly a stolen election. We know that they’ve stolen the election.”

Whether LePage simply forgot what he’d said or was dissembling, Sweet, said it points to something deeper, “Which is how often politicians try and read the tea leaves and tell people what they want to hear,” instead of following their “true north.”

Harriman put it much more succinctly: “Oops.”

Our analysts also discussed the final debate between the first district congressional candidates, the divisive state of politics in the city of Portland, and the unusual sight of a member of Congress “shotgunning” a beer at homecoming at the University of Maine.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine’s Weekend Morning Report.

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