By Peter A. Steele
You shouldn’t bet against Paul LePage.
He’s been coming from behind his whole life, starting with his escape from an abusive home at age 11 and living on the streets in Lewiston. Against overwhelming odds, he graduated from high school and college, then earned an MBA and worked his way up to his position as general manager for Marden’s Inc.
A Republican mayor in heavily Democratic Waterville, LePage has worked with his Democratic council to reduce taxes, control spending and maintain services. He seemed a long shot to win the Republican primary in a field of well-known and better-financed candidates. But, again, he came from behind with a resounding victory.
His commanding lead in the governor’s race slipped away in recent days as independently wealthy media favorite Eliot Cutler began to rise in the polls. Even on Election Night, early results showed him lagged behind Cutler. But, once again, LePage came from behind to turn adversity into victory. Do you see a pattern here?
Throughout his life, LePage has lived by one rule: If it is to be, it is up to me. He knew that success comes only through hard work and perseverance, strong education and dedication to improving one’s personal situation. Lacking the deep pockets of his rivals, refusing to take the people’s money to fund his grassroots campaign and watching the media cozy up to Cutler, LePage knew that once again, it would be up to him to win this race.
That’s the kind of candidate that resonated with the people of Maine on Tuesday—especially the residents of The Other Maine.
Cutler’s lifelong career as a Democratic loyalist, corporate lawyer, lobbyist and Washington, D.C. insider earned him a wealthy lifestyle and a $4 million estate in Cape Elizabeth. Senate President and former Speaker of the House Libby Mitchell, who is also a lawyer, is a Democratic leader who has presided over the legislature for almost four decades, enjoying the privilege and power of her positions. These elitists bask in the economic sunlight of Southern Maine.
But angry and frustrated voters sent Mitchell scurrying from office on Tuesday, clearly fed up with her big-government, big-spending philosophy. Even Democrats abandoned her, leaving her with less than 20 percent of the vote Tuesday and causing her to concede early that night. At least she was honest about being a Democrat.
To attract disillusioned Democrats and the large population of unenrolled voters in Maine, Cutler cleverly repacked himeself as a warm and friendly independent. His back-room savvy and political-insider influence, stretching all the way from Downeast to D.C., won him the endorsements of the major Maine newspapers, as well as support from local Democrats, Washington cohorts and even former independent governor Angus King.
Angered at Mitchell and her cronies and fearful of the straight-talking, hard-charging LePage, Maine’s disenfranchised Democrats and sheepish independents cast their votes for Cutler. It was a brilliant plan.
But Cutler and Mitchell are two sides of the same coin. Common-sense citizens could see this, especially those from The Other Maine—the people who reside far from the shores of Cape Elizabeth or the privileged halls of the State House.
The hard-working men and women of Maine, the small business owners and the young people worried about good-paying, private-sector jobs—these are the citizens who voted for LePage and gave him a Republican legislature to work with. Indeed, folks, the era of Big Government is over. The people want their government back!
Paul LePage has his work cut out for him, and the Republican honeymoon in Augusta will soon vvanish. The Republicans asked for it, and now they’ve got it. The media and the citizens will expect miracle cures, and they’ll expect those miracles to happen fast. But we’re not worried. LePage has never backed down from a scrap, and we don’t expect him to start now.
He will face a hostile Maine media, Democrats will work tirelessly to undermine him and special interest predators will be at his throat, snapping with a rapacious appetite for government hand-outs. LePage knows that, once again, it’s up to him. But this time, let’s give him a hand. We all have a dog in this fight.
Although LePage is comfortable backed into a corner, he will need our support. Maine government needs to be completely restructured, and it won’t be easy. One man cannot do it alone, even with the House and Senate to back him up. If it is to be, it is up to us!