Election 2015 Post-Game Show

News Categories: 

Lance Dutson: Democrats may have had a “come to Jesus” moment last Tuesday.

After letting you progressives drag them out into left field, it looks like the party of Ed Muskie might be tacking back to the center again.

Steven Biel: I know one contest where progressives won. I whipped you in the predictions game, 5 correct predictions to just 4 for you!

Lance: Split right down the middle, like a good Maine moderate.

Left Brain: Steven Biel

Steven Biel is a political consultant and former campaign director at the progressive group MoveOn.org. He lives in Portland with his wife and two kids.

Right Brain: Lance Dutson

Lance Dutson is a political communications consultant, veteran of Maine Republican campaigns, and owner of As Maine Goes. He lives in Falmouth.

But really, Portland Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the $15 minimum wage and elected the most centrist of three mayoral candidates. Looks like Democrats are figuring out that extreme positions don’t win elections.

That realization might have come a little too late though. Maine Republicans picked up two House seats in special elections Tuesday as well, a very bad sign for Democrats as we move toward 2016.

Steven: The big fights for progressives were Clean Elections and the Lewiston mayor's race, and both were big wins.

In the special elections for state House, you’re putting an awful lot of stock in two tiny, super-low turnout races. One is even going to a recount—and Cathy Breen would like to remind you to count the GOP ballots only once.

Lance: You predicted that Democrats would win both special elections, and it looks like they’ll win neither. You can’t deny that’s a disappointment.

In Lewiston, you might want to pause the victory parade. Four Republicans got 56 percent of the vote, while liberal Ben Chin got 44, and based on that math I don’t see how he wins the runoff.

Steven: The Lewiston runoff is going to be really close, and if I was Las Vegas I’d have Bob MacDonald as the slight favorite.

But Ben Chin got 3,600 votes—more than Bob MacDonald has ever gotten—and no one saw that coming when he announced back in March. I still predict he’ll pull off the runoff upset.

Lance: Question 1 showed more than anything that campaigns matter. The GOP-led No on 1 campaign got its butt kicked not because of their position on the issue but because of a lack of fundraising and horrible messaging.

If Republicans could get out of our own way, we would have run the table on Tuesday.

Steven: Gimme a break. Clean Elections won because Clean Elections is popular with voters. We've had Clean Elections in Maine since 2000. Voters have seen it in action, and voted for it by a double-digit margin… again.

Lance: I don't know how you can glean anything about people's views on an issue when one campaign outspends the other 20 to 1. But you're right in a sense--voters like the optimistic (and naïve) view that we can get money out of politics.

Aspiration is a powerful thing, way more effective in Maine than anger. That’s why our most popular statewide politicians are Susan Collins, Angus King, and Olympia Snowe.

Steven: Voters like Clean Elections because we are sick and tired of wealthy interests deciding who gets to run for office. Clean Elections allows middle- and working-class candidates to compete without spending hours on the phone sucking up to rich people begging for money.

Lance: Wealthy interests like Ben Chin, who out-raised Mayor Bob MacDonald about 30 to 1?

Steven: More like Bruce Poliquin, who should have a primary challenge after voting against repealing ObamaCare, but is scaring off all challengers with record-setting fundraising.

On Clean Elections, the question now is whether Republicans in Augusta will again try to subvert the will of the voters by refusing to fund it. What's your prediction there?

Lance: Republicans in the legislature have shown they're serious about respecting the will of the voter. They rejected the governor's efforts to expand the sales tax largely because of the 2010 referendum that showed voters didn't want it. And the push-back LePage has gotten from the legislature over the games he's played with Land for Maine’s Future money makes it pretty clear where they stand.

Question 1 put a fairly broad set of guidelines on the table for funding the Clean Elections program. I'm sure there are plenty of overly generous liberal programs that can be trimmed to pay for it.

Steven: I have a lot of nervous friends at Maine Citizens for Clean Elections who aren't so sure, but if Republicans choose to run as the party of Dirty Elections in 2016, I'm sure the Maine Democratic Party will be okay with that.

Back to your main point. Was this a bad election for Maine progressives? I say no.

Conventional wisdom is that as white working-class communities have become more Republican nationwide, Dems need to tack to the right. Ben Chin is proving that wrong.

In Portland, $15 never really had a chance. When in doubt, voters will lean no on any ballot question, and after the city council passed $10.10 and the Maine People's Alliance put $12 on the ballot, voters felt like the problem was already being solved.

And we won Clean Elections.

So on election night I felt pretty good, and not just because I beat you—and crushed WGAN analysts Jeremy Fisher and Matt Gagnon—in predictions.

Lance: The liberal mecca of Portland elected a Paul LePage-endorsed candidate for mayor.

On a day with arguably mixed results, that may be the final word on what this election says about Maine’s political climate.

Steven: Ethan Strimling’s landslide is a conversation for another day. But if you think it's because of support from Paul LePage, I think you've smoking too many of Diane Russell's funny cigarettes.