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Political Brew: LePage on ‘voter fraud,’ Jackson’s confirmation, and a health insurance shakeup

Our analysts this week are former state senator and Yarmouth town councilor, Republican Phil Harriman, and Democrat Ethan Strimling, a former state senator.

MAINE, USA — At a recent Republican party event, former Gov. Paul LePage, who is running for another term, made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, claiming that he met voters who were bused in from Massachusetts in 2009.

"I was mayor at the time," LePage said. "They stayed at a hotel in Waterville overnight, voted, and left the next day."

When asked about that claim a few days later, LePage appeared to want to brush it off, calling it "ancient history."

Matthew Dunlap was Maine Secretary of State at the time, and he said then that the incident never happened. And current Secretary Shenna Bellows said this week, "It is completely untrue that anyone has ever been bused in from outside the state to register to vote on Election Day and cast a ballot."

LePage also questioned whether tens of thousands of people should have been allowed to vote in Maine's 2020 election, claiming they did not have proper identification.

Bellows said there were just two cases of voter fraud in that election and added, "If you vote twice in Maine, we will find you and prosecute you."

Phil Harriman said, "If you're gonna run for governor, and you're gonna make claims like that, you need to be able to show the media and the public proof that those claims are accurate."

Ethan Strimling said this is "just the same old Paul LePage making statements that are untrue."

LePage made his claims as part of his argument for instituting a voter ID law, something Harriman said the vast majority of Mainers support.

But Strimling pointed out Mainers already have to have an ID to register to vote and said, "What people are asking for is trying to create an additional burden, which would make it harder for many people to vote."

He added, "If it's going to be part of a package, in which we can try to find ways to expand voting rights, we'll talk about it."

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday. Just three Republicans, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, joined Democrats and independent Sen. Angus King to confirm Jackson. The latter will become the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court.

Collins pushed back against comments made by Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who wrote on Twitter that Collins, Murkowski, and Romney are "pro-pedophiles" for supporting Jackson.

Collins told reporters Greene's comments are "ludicrous" but "sadly, typical of what I expect from her."

Strimling praised Collins for her vote and pushing back on the far rightwing representative. But he thinks she could do more. 

"She's gonna have to go to her leadership and say, 'stop it.' There's no reason Judge Jackson should only get three Republican votes except that people want to use it as a political football," Strimling said.

Harriman said Greene's remarks further prove that "It's the people that are broken in Washington, not the process."

There's a big shakeup in Maine's health care industry. MaineHealth said its flagship hospital, Maine Medical Center, in Portland, the largest hospital in the state, will no longer participate as an in-network provider of non-emergency care for Anthem subscribers as of January 2023.

MaineHealth said one issue is $70 million owed by Anthem for claims over the past three years. Anthem said it was responding to "unilateral increases" in charges at MaineMed.

Gov. Janet Mills weighed in and urged the companies to work this out.

"I'm optimistic now that this is now public. " Harriman said both sides don't want to be seen as the problem," Harriman said. "Someone's gotta get them together and find a solution."

Strimling said the dispute is incredibly disappointing and asked, "Could you find a better example of why we need a single-payer system? Why do we need Medicare For All? Why do we need to get rid of these insurance companies?"

The analysts also discussed the new multi-cultural center opened by the Maine Republican Party in the Democratic stronghold of Portland, the lack of partisan drama so far as the Legislature gets closer to adjournment, and comments this week by former Maine senator and secretary of defense William Cohen about how the current political vitriol is causing other countries to lose faith in the United States.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine's Morning Report.

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