Dunlap trumps the feds in advisory commission squabble



It’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlap 1, feds 0. President Donald Trump decided it was better to extinguish the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity than to allow full access by commission members to commission documents and proceedings.

There were just four Democrats named to the 11-member commission, and one of them has since died. Two public meetings were held, to little effect. Now the work of the commission has been moved to the Department of Homeland Security, which will likely have less of a problem working behind closed doors.

The adjective most commonly applied to the commission mandate, that of unearthing voter fraud nationwide, was “baseless.” Previous analyses of voter fraud at both the national and state of Maine levels have found little to write home about. The number of votes determined to be fraudulent was vanishingly small.

The tussle is not over. Secretary Dunlap would still like to see commission documents. Even if the commission no longer exists, its work should be a matter of public record, no? No. Dunlap reportedly said the Department of Justice said ixnay to his request. To that, Dunlap cited the DOJ for a “rich blend of arrogance and contempt for the rule of law” and called its recalcitrance “unthinkable, unconscionable and un-American.” Do you think he’s miffed? He sounds miffed. You go, Matt Dunlap.

Since Christmas Day, we’ve needed something to get heated up about, right? Temperatures rarely climbed out of the single digits for a full two weeks. Mainers left their cozy beds each morning with the same enthusiasm as the Irish leaving their homeland during the potato famine.

Open the door for the cat to go out and it was “Hell no, I won’t go!” One breath of outside air and she’d flatten to the floor, ears back, and slink off to her indoor nest. Only the most devout outdoor enthusiasts, and precious few of those, braved the temps for anything but vital necessities such as Allen’s Coffee Brandy. The rest of us confined ourselves to quarters, wrapped up in blankets, and watched the level drop in the oil tank.

The cold was not sufficient to prevent more 2018 candidates from diving in to the big Maine races. We’re up to 27 gubernatorial candidates, 14 in the race for Bruce Poliquin’s seat in the Second Congressional District (including Poliquin himself) and six in the U.S. Senate race now held by front man Angus King. The filing deadline for all those races is March 15, so there is still plenty of time for others to ask: “Why not me?”

Why not indeed? Well, it is really difficult to overcome the advantages of name recognition, money and party backing. Sure, there is an occasional long-shot candidate who rises to the top, but even then they don’t often win. A person who appears on the candidate list and is unknown, unfunded and un-Google-able is truly pushing a mule up a ladder. Seriously, if you have declared yourself a candidate but even the most diligent researcher cannot turn up one single thing you ever did, said or suffered, exactly what is it that makes you think you can persuade a majority of Mainers to discover you, fall in love and vote for you in the next nine months?

It’s different at the local level, where even a political novice has a fighting chance. Districts, especially for House members, are not that big. Some people already know you, and more than some of you participate in civic life, play sports, work in the public eye or play the ukulele.

Nonetheless, the Hancock County races have been slower to populate than the Big Three. Of the four current reps eligible for re-election, all of them are presumed running, though only Dick Campbell of Orrington, Larry Lockman of Amherst and Karl Ward of Dedham have actually filed. Brian Hubbell (Bar Harbor), where are you? None of them has opponents yet, and all four would be favorites in their races. Sen. Kim Rosen of Bucksport is running for a third term in the Senate, and challenger Teresa Montague of Clifton is in the race as well. It will be an uphill battle for Montague.

The only other Hancock County race with declared candidates is in House District 136. Rep. Richard Malaby (Hancock) will be termed out, and legislative newcomers Kylie Bragdon, a Democrat, and William “Billy Bob” Faulkingham, a Republican, both from Winter Harbor, are in it to win it. Thanks for stepping up, you two.

By next fall we will be as sick of election “messaging” as we are of the blaring advertisements that emanate from gas pumps these days. The “mute” button on the pumps has been worn away by exasperated customers beating on it with the corner of their credit cards. Like we don’t know that we can buy a soda inside. #shut the heck up.

Legislators are back in Augusta and candidates will be rubbing elbows as they try to beef up their track records for bragging rights in the election. Watch what they do, not what they say.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.