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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Ethan: We are pleased to announce the winners of our annual political awards for 2021!
Phil: Slow down, Bub. You should share with our readers what criteria we used.
Ethan: Sure. Just like last year, there was none.
Phil: Tradition continues. Let the festivities begin.
Buster Douglas Award
Phil: This one is named after the infamous boxing upset of Mike Tyson and goes to the politician every year who, like Buster Douglas, took down a heavyweight.
Ethan: This TKO in the fourth round goes to Portland Charter Commissioner Pat Washburn. She closed a 1,500-vote gap by knocking out very well-known businessman Steve DiMillo. She went to bed thinking she had lost, but was awoken at 2 a.m. to be told she had won!
Phil: Not a fan of ranked-choice voting, and the four rounds of counting it took her to win, but she played by the rules and knocked out a big-wig who most predicted would win, including me. Congratulations Pat!
Comeback of the Year Award
Ethan: This one goes to a politician turned activist who may be a politician again some day: former state Sen. Tom Saviello.
Phil: After retiring from the Maine Senate in 2018, most presumed he would spend his days working out in a rocking chair. Instead, he used his gravitas to take on Central Maine Power as a leader in the campaign to stop the corridor. Now, many are encouraging him to run for governor.
Ethan: If he wins that, he will certainly get our “Buster Douglas” award next year.
Not Dead Yet! Award
Ethan: This one is a tie for a couple of your good friends: former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and former Gov. Paul LePage. I don’t know whether these two can win back their seats, but they are sure proving you can’t keep a social-security-eligible-former-Republican-elected-official down.
Phil: An inspiration to all of us former Republican politicians this side of 60! Regardless of whether Mainers reelect them to their former jobs, they are showing all of us America is the land of opportunity if you go for it!
Both Sides Now Award
Phil: This award is named after the famous Joni Mitchell song in which she describes no longer knowing what she believes.
Ethan: Twice in 2021 this Democrat said the stimulus was needed. But twice in 2021 he voted against it. Previously, he voted to both impeach and acquit Donald Trump,. And prior to that he declared his support for Medicare for All before he declared his opposition to Medicare for All.
Phil: While I always appreciate some independence from party orthodoxy, if U.S. Rep. Jared Golden wants people to know what he stands for, he is going to have to be clearer on exactly what that is. The clear winner of this year’s award.
Bonehead Move of the Year Award
Phil: Central Maine Power earns this one hands down. After 61 percent of Mainers voted to stop the corridor, the next day they declared that they would continue clearcutting and went to court to overturn the vote.
Ethan: You know you’ve done something boneheaded when one of your staunchest allies, Gov. Janet Mills (see the “What Were You Thinking?” Award below), has to tell you to sit in the corner for a timeout.
What Were You Thinking? Award
Phil: In our business, the number of politicians who have an opportunity to win this award is lengthy.
Ethan: Indeed. But this year Gov. Janet MIlls earns the honor. From vetoing the bipartisan consumer-owned utility bill, to stumping in support of CMP’s effort to clear-cut our woods, to continuing to support the corridor after Maine people resoundingly rejected it, she has used way too much political capital supporting a company that Maine people have made clear they want gone.
Phil: Time to recharge the political capital account.
Beat the Odds Award
Phil: In a year when deaths in Maine outpaced births by 6,300 due to COVID, this award goes to our dear State of Maine. She actually increased in population by the largest number of any New England state! I don’t know how we did it, but we did.
Ethan: I’ll tell you how. Immigrants and people from the tri-state area.
Phil: Are you telling me I have to thank New Jersey for this influx? Welcome Bruce Sprinsteen fans!
Politician of the Year
Ethan: This was a hard one. Not because no one was deserving, but because we had to only pick one. The winner is someone we both served with a long time ago, but who these days is inspiring (and frustrating) Republicans and Democrats alike with his positions.
Phil: Indeed. The winner this year is none other than state Sen. Rick Bennett. Your friends love him because he is battling CMP and supporting campaign finance reform, while my side appreciates that he is calling out MIlls for overreach in her emergency executive powers and was steadfast in his opposition to Majority budgets.
Ethan: Well done senator.