Lessons Learned at the Ballot Box
The results of last week's election aren't contained solely in the success or failure of the big-ticket ballot items. The local elections and the discussion of who voted and why is just as important. Here are some general thoughts on the election of 2009:
Maine's radical Christian right has differing opinions on the result of Question 1. Mike Hein, Administrator of the Christian Civic League (I guess they gave up on the name change) has declared that the successful veto of equal marriage is a defeat for "the radical homosexual lobby" and will allow the League to continue to press their broader agenda. "Victory will only be realized when the public returns to an awareness that homosexuality is a sin," said Hein in a release.
Former Christian Civic League Director Mike Heath, while expressing similar sentiments, is a bit less optimistic. On his blog he writes that the Yes on 1 campaign actually didn't hit hard enough and that as a result, "Homosexual marriage is inevitable, and will be created shortly by the courts or another legislative action."
On Question 2, Sun Journal Editorial Editor Tony Ronzio (who will soon be Managing Editor at the Kennebec Journal) reports (and No on 2 Communications Director Lizzy Reinholt confirms) that the tow truck driver in the very effective ads against the excise tax cut referendum was played by Sopranos actor John Fiore. The ad plays a little differently if you watch him whacking a guy first.
Conservatives are upset with the results of the TABOR referendum and according to radio talk show host Ray Richardson, the Yes on 4 campaign and the organizations supporting the initiative have no one but themselves to blame. “Frankly, TABOR, I don't know why it was put on the ballot. There was no campaign to support it,” said Richardson. “It's almost like, let's just put it on the ballot, then lose and complain.”
According to the Portland Press Herald, the defeat of Question 4 is an endorsement of Maine's elected officials. “TABOR Defeat Reveals Trust in Government” reads a recent headline. That's a sentiment that you don't hear very often. I wonder if it means we're no longer “Fed up with taxes.”
Hancock County was the only county in the state to back question 7, a relatively innocuous constitutional provision with no campaign for or against its passage. It's fascinating to me that this was so widely rejected, and seems to prove that if a question isn't well understood, voters default to the status quo.
The UMaine campus newspaper ran an interesting experiment following the defeat of Question 1 – a word cloud that allows visitors to their Web site to visually express their feelings toward the election. The university poll in Orono went seven to one against the measure. Some of the larger words in the cloud include “angry,” “resolute” and, unfortunately, “apathetic.”
The town of China, Maine, passed its obscenity ordinance banning adult businesses. Interestingly, the owner of the topless coffee shop in nearby Vassalboro that prompted the ordinance is simultaneously making plans to stage a comeback after losing his business to arson.
Some have noted an urban-rural divide on question 1, but it seems to me more like a divide between Portland and almost the entirety of the rest of the state. The most colorful piece of commentary I've seen on the demographics of Question 1 came from twitter: “[Maine] is just like a Gay Afghanistan - Kabul is easy, but if you want to root out the Taliban you've got to go into the mountains.”
Charles Bragdon doesn't give up. Despite losing nearly two-to-one in his race for Portland City Council, Bragdon became the first announced candidate for the seats up in 2010, declaring his candidacy less than twenty-four hours after the polls closed.
In South Portland, the attempt to ban dogs from Willard beach was defeated by a wide margin and the leader of the campaign, Gary Crosby, came in third in his city council race. Let's hope this is the last Maine election featuring yard signs with color photographs of dogs defecating.
Despite what The Coast Star described as an “all-out, full-color, full-volume attack on the small community of Wells and the surrounding towns” by the Nestle PR department, Wells voters overwhelmingly rejected an ordinance that would have allowed Poland Spring easier access to local water supplies.
Don't get too comfortable - the June 2010 election is already shaping up. Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has declared valid the petitions collected by the Republican and Green parties seeking to repeal the Democratic tax reform package passed last session.