The 4 topics defining Maine politics in 2022

Radiofreemaine/ August 8, 2022/ Politics

High-stakes elections for governor and congress were held in Maine this year as the COVID-19 pandemic once again looms over state politics. When lawmakers met the Legislature discussed a significant budget issue, and a subsequent energy referendum planned for later in the year. The four main themes to watch this year in Maine:

Covid 19

Maine consistently broke records for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations throughout December last year; almost two years after the epidemic began. The pandemic endgame is still far off with the introduction of the omicron type, but politics have drastically changed in the past 12 months.

More than 80% of eligible Mainers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the fact that vaccines continue to significantly lower the risk of contracting the virus, more and more people are reporting breakthrough cases because of the more contagious delta form.

Democratic governor Janet Mills decided not to reinstate COVID-19 mitigation measures from 2020, such as mask requirements. She is instead concentrating on promoting vaccination. Her opponent, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, is quick to claim he is immunized while laying out a hands-off pandemic strategy. He recently said that Maine should not have worried about the spread among children but rather had let them all have it to create immunity, a statement that was criticized by Democrats.

Although COVID-19 limitations are not likely to be reinstated, the virus’s quick spread is compounding a number of other difficulties. These include supply chain issues, a lack of workers, and strain on Maine’s healthcare system. There will be a lot of discussion in politics about finding answers for each issue, but the ongoing broadcast of COVID-19 will thwart any progress.

How to handle a significant financial surplus

Due in significant part to extensive federal support, Maine and other states have recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic in a better financial position than many had predicted. However, political bickering over the state’s $800 million budget surplus is certain to ensue.

Funding for child care or other initiatives aimed at assisting adults return to the workforce; direct assistance akin to the $285 checks handed to working Mainers this winter; and support for health professionals or other sectors adversely struck by the pandemic are also potential uses.

In response to worries about inflation, both Republicans and Mills have embraced the idea of direct help. However, there haven’t been many details provided. When the Legislature reconvenes in January, it is expected to be a big topic. Depending on how the legislative session proceeds, it might also come up in the contest between Mills and LePage for governor.

The ensuing energy conflicts

The referendum on the future of the Central Maine Power Co. broke records for politics-based spending in a Maine referendum. And it may only be a prelude to conflicts over energy in 2022 and beyond. The transmission line was rejected by almost six out of ten Mainers. But the project’s future is still uncertain because CMP is arguing that the referendum was illegal in court.

However, the company’s struggles are far from resolved. In order to put a referendum to establish a nonprofit consumer-owned utility on the November ballot, CMP opponents are gathering signatures.

A transmission line proposal to link Aroostook County to the rest of New England’s energy system will now need legislative approval. This might have an impact on other projects as well. A conflict is also developing over offshore wind. Mills signed a measure this year banning wind projects in state waters. This was whilst also pushing through with a pilot project in federal seas in response to complaints from lobstermen concerned about development. However, LePage also has a tangled history with coastal energy. For example he backed increased offshore drilling under President Donald Trump. He will certainly attempt to capitalize on fishermen’s concerns about new projects.

High energy costs this winter brought on by the rising price of natural gas have raised concerns about Maine’s future energy supplies. If the high costs continue, that will be a significant problem within politics in Maine this year on many fronts.

Nationalization of state and local races

Numerous national problems might also have an effect on Maine. In the local school board elections this year some politicians drew attention to “critical race theory”. They were mostly unsuccessful because there is little proof that it is being taught in the local schools.

However, national Republicans continue to bang on about it, and a few people here continue to speak out against it. Republicans have attempted to link Mills to high inflation in the governor’s campaign. This is despite the fact that rising prices are a problem in every state and even internationally. The reversal of the  Roe v. Wade ruling will also become more important in the contest between pro-abortion Mills and anti-abortion LePage.

Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, is already under pressure from his left for refusing to back President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion spending plan. The election for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seems therefore to be a test case for nationalization.

Attempts have been made to link Golden to national Democrats by former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin; a Republican running for re-election in 2022 alongside three primary opponents. However, the incumbent’s votes against his party on numerous well-known bills this year may make that impossible. Despite the fact that a lot may happen, it is generally believed that Maine Republicans, who are currently out of power both locally and in Washington, would benefit from the favorable national politics climate. In Maine’s elections next year, the harmony between the state’s circumstances and local concerns will play a crucial role.

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