(Cross-Posted @ Augusta Insider)
Pine Tree Politics has released a statement from Senator Mills on his run:
I am running for Governor with a plan to fix state government and rebuild Maine’s economy. Throughout my 15 years of service in the state legislature I’ve sounded the fiscal alarm that we are now hearing loud and clear. Our state spends more than it can afford and gets poor value for that dollar. The recession has made this frighteningly obvious. Now more than ever we need an accountable government, one that measures the results of the services it delivers.
There are a few things that set Peter Mills apart from the other Republican gubernatorial candidates. Perhaps the most obvious is Mills’ legislative experience. While the three other GOP candidates have business backgrounds, Mills has been in the Maine Legislature since 1994. Mills is also the only candidate to have run for governor before: He lost to fellow State Senator Chandler Woodcock in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary by only 3.4%. The lessons learned from Mills’ extensive campaign experience and his work in the legislature will undoubtedly shape his run. “Things have deteriorated in the last four years,” Mills said in an interview. “Most of the things that I pointed to [in 2006] have gotten worse, and part of that is the economy and part of that is the state.”
Since Senator Mills has been in the legislature, we have the advantage of the early use of Project Vote Smart (for other candidates, we’ll just have to wait until they fill out the Vote Smart survey). Using Vote Smart we can look beyond the speeches and soundbites to interest group ratings and legislative votes grouped by category. Mills’ social ratings on Vote Smart vary. Planned Parenthood has given Mills consistently high rantings. The NRA has also consistently given Mills an “A”. The Maine Education Association, Maine People’s Alliance, and League of Conservation Voters’ ratings have varied over Mills’ legislative career. On the economic side of things Maine AFL-CIO’s ratings went from low to high over Mills’ legislative career, while Mills’ ratings from business organizations such as the Maine Economic Research Institute and the National Federation for Independent Business have become more positive.
Senator Mills’ Vote Smart ratings would place him center or center left socially and to the right fiscally. As Pine Tree Politics has noted, recent votes and actions by Senator Mills may point to another conclusion. Mills’ support for recent tax reform legislation and healthcare reform point to a shift to the left. However, when his whole voting record is viewed, the vote for tax reform seems more like an outlier on the fiscal conservative test. Since 2006 Mills has voted right on many issues. Mills voted against the 2006 minimum wage increase and teacher minimum wage increase . Mills voted against the recent alcohol and soda tax. If Mills can keep focus off his vote for the LD 1088 tax reforms, or put a positive spin on it, his recent record should speak for itself. Mills should be able to convince voters that he is still the same fiscal conservative he once was.
Mills also opposed expansion of Dirigo Health in 2006 and earlier this year. Indeed, Mills has consistently opposed Dirigo, which makes his appearance at the healthcare reform rally all the more interesting. On education, Senator Mills voted against the citizen-initiated repeal of school consolidation and for charter schools.
Peter Mills’ website layout is not terribly flashy, but it is intuitive. Pine Tree Politics mentioned this earlier, but it bares repeating: What social networking options does Mills offer? Well you can join his Facebook page…or you can join his Facebook page. In this age of instant connection through the internet, that is just not enough. Nearly all of the candidates so far, Republican or otherwise, have not only a Facebook presence, but are also on several other social networking sites, from Twitter to LinkedIn to YouTube. In a sparsely populated state like Maine, these new media tools allow candidates to reach everyone from Kittery to Fort Kent in an instant. Not maintaining a presence on these services when your opponents do could be a serious misstep. As I’ve said before, I’d be surprised if candidates neglected any corner of the internet they could spread their message to. I’m sure Senator Mills will branch out as the campaign progresses.
I have examined several candidate’s website statements on how they would address certain issues in Maine. Mills’ “Plan” differs from just about everything I’ve read so far in that he takes a direct approach with his platform: “Here is a problem. Here is the solution”. Mills presents the problems facing Maine and his solutions briefly and clearly. Mills has presented his platform more effectively than any candidate so far. In our soundbite world, Mills and Twitter could be a match made in Heaven.
The Plan itself is divided into two sections, “Fix the State” and “Rebuild Maine”. The contents of Fix the State reinforce Mills’ recently challenged reputation as a fiscal conservative. Mills advocates accountability in in Maine’s budget, health care, human services and education. Reducing Medicade abuse, cutting duplicate public works services, and pay-as-you-go state budgets are key to Mills’ plan. Even though Mills appeared at the recent health care rally, he advocates something less liberal than what we’ve seen from Washington as of late. Senator Mills wishes to revive a competitive insurance market in Maine, quite distant from a lot of what is being talked about in health care lately. However, Mills does recommend expanding some forms of public health including health clinics in schools, rural health centers with sliding scale fees, and nutrition and health education. Though this may be too liberal for some, Mills’ position on health care is sure to grab the attention of moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats, and many Independents.
The “Rebuilding Maine” section focuses on the economy. As anyone who has driven in Maine can clearly see, our roads are a mess. Beyond the normal wear and tear of harsh winters, many roads and bridges are in a horrible state of disrepair. Cell and broadband coverage are lagging as well. In a state as rural as Maine, lacking in those areas hurts. Mills recognizes these issues, pushing for a comprehensive plan to bring our roads up to par and eliminate cell phone and broadband gaps within five years. Ambitious, but necessary. How can Maine expect to attract business if we can’t even show we are willing to keep up the networks they need to function?
Senator Mills goes on to say that by getting a handle on taxes and removing some regulations Maine can attract new business and revitalize the ones we already have. “In some cases, all it takes is for government to move out of the way.” says Mills. Mills supports bringing cheaper power to Maine through alternative energy and energy partnerships with our Canadian neighbors.
After reviewing Senator Mills’ record and plans if he should be elected, Mills seems to have remained the socially tolerant, fiscally conservative Republican he has always been. Mills’ recent courting of the left, as his plan shows, are not the beginnings of an Arlan Spector-esque dodge to the progressives. If Mills continues to hammer home his roots, and clearly explain his recent opinions, he will be a strong contender for the GOP nomination and the Blaine House – especially in a highly fractured field. This match is far from over however. Other GOP contenders will most certainly be stiff competition for Mills. We’ll have to wait until next June to see how Maine Republicans feel about the senator from Cornville.