Election Day is just around the corner and Republicans are already twisting the facts for political gain. While both parties can be guilty of spinning the facts, the Maine Republican Party seems to be taking it to a whole new level this year.
It’s not surprising given the level of discourse in Augusta under Gov. Paul LePage’s leadership. He’s struck a definite negative tone since taking office. Whether it’s abrasive comments against lawmakers, Maine’s hardest-hit families or his own loose version of the facts. It is a shame the Maine Republican Party operatives have taken his lead in recent weeks, putting erroneous focus on Mike Michaud as he continues to lead in the Maine governor’s race.
The Maine Republican Party sent out three ads in the mail deceitfully attacking Michaud in the last few weeks, but one in particular caught my eye: an ad attacking Michaud for a decades-old bill he sponsored while a state senator. The ad calls then-Sen. Michaud’s bill a “job-killer” for those employed at Great Northern Paper Co. This is blatantly false. Michaud’s bill, which passed with unanimous support, actually saved jobs and helped the mill stay in business.
What’s even more disheartening is Republican Party Chair Rick Bennett allowed this mailer to be sent to homes across the state, even though he also voted in favor of the same bill when he was in the state Senate. The ad fails to mention Michaud’s bill had the full support of the mill’s owners and workers at the time. In fact, the bill received strong unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats and was signed into law by independent Gov. Angus King.
How do I know this? I had the privilege of representing this area of Maine in the state Senate for nine terms. I grew up seeing firsthand the expansion of the Great Northern Paper Co.’s hydroelectric system with my father working in the system. Throughout my legislative career, I paid close attention to protecting the water resources and the abundance of low-cost electricity first identified in the late 1860s that created the economic foundation for the Great Northern Paper Co. and I wrote the original statute that tied the hydro system to the mills. That law was amended by then- Sen. Michaud’s bill a decade later.
I also know there were no easy decisions being made during that trying time. But, thanks to the help of then-Sen. Michaud, a law was enacted that protects jobs at the mill, allowing the owners to sell the hydropower dams. It was no secret the sale allowed Great Northern to pay for upgrades to their paper machine. It gave owners needed capital to invest in the mills, to rebuild its operation to remain viable in a changing market. The entire local delegation — Michaud, Reps. Joseph Clark and Steve Stanley — and the Maine Legislature listened to the needs and wants of the owners of the mill, and with the support of its workers, allowed the sale of the hydro system because it was best option available at that point in time.
Now the GOP, in a bid for to re-elect LePage, is trying to rewrite history with a false attack on Michaud. The distortion by the Republican Party is a disservice to Mainers, especially those from this region who know the history firsthand. It is especially devastating given the current economic hardships of those in the industry and our communities, where many are going without work. Maine Republicans up and down the ticket should be embarrassed for this egregious efforts to falsely politicize such a tough issue impacting the livelihoods of so many today.
Unfortunately, the GOP has been lead astray by leadership that seems to be too willing do whatever and say whatever to get re-elected. Michaud is the opposite. He is a leader who cares for all of Maine. His work in the Legislature and as a congressman has shown he hasn’t forgotten his millworker roots and proved his dedication to improving our state as a whole and doing right by the people he serves. No fabricated attacks will change the fact Michaud represented his people and will be a great governor for Maine.
Charles P. Pray of Millinocket was president of the Maine Senate from 1984 to 1992.