PORTLAND, Maine — Maine lawmakers were called back into special session last Monday. Gov. Janet Mills (D-Maine) wanted them to send four bond issues out to voters this fall. Republicans agreed to the $110 million transportation bond, but dug in their heels and blocked the others, including one that would have provided $15 million to expand access to broadband service in rural Maine.
Mills lashed out and described the Republicans as "sheep" blindly following their leaders, and called them "the party of 'no.'"
Republicans argued that it would be fiscally irresponsible to authorize all of the proposed bond packages. But former Republican state senator Phil Harriman isn't buying that argument.
"If Republicans wanted to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility," Harriman says, "They never should've given them a two-thirds vote to pass a budget that increased spending by 11%. So that argument by Republicans, in my view, doesn't wash."
Democrat John Richardson, a former Speaker of the House, says it's not surprising that Gov. Mills would be thwarted at this point after a very successful legislative session.
Richardson says "The honeymoon is over. It's nothing that Janet has done good or bad, it's that we're now turning the page into 2020 and there will be an election. As a result of that, you're going to see people start to part ways."
Richardson expresses some surprise that the GOP balked at the broadband bond. He says "broadband in rural areas is really important. Many more Republicans represent those areas than Democrats, so I really was confused as to why they wouldn't vote at least for the broadband bond."
During that one day special session, the Senate surprised many by giving final passage to a bill to expand ranked-choice voting to the presidential primary in March.
Richardson points out that "the fact is that the governor can call in the Legislature but can't control what the legislature is ultimately going to do. She said 'I want you to come in and vote for bonds only,' (but) that was merely advisory as far as the Legislature is concerned."
Harriman thinks the ranked-choice expansion is a bad idea.
"I hope (Mills) vetoes this." Harriman says, "there is so much confusion and frustration over ranked-choice voting, I just hope she does not allow it to become law."
Our NEWS CENTER Maine political analysts also talk about the shape of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has been drawing very large crowds in recent stops, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has too.
It is somewhat unusual to see such large crowds this early in an election cycle.
Says Harriman "To me as a Republican it means that the Democrat base is so fired up to do whatever they can to change the representation in Washington. And I believe they're beginning to coalesce around candidates like Sanders, like Warren, like Biden."
Former Vice President Joe Biden has a strong lead in most polls. But does he inspire the same passion that Warren and Sanders seem to?
Harriman explains it this way: "Joe Biden is 'Uncle Joe,' he's been in public office for 40 years. You're either with him or not. You're either excited about him, or ambivalent. (Warren & Sanders) are fresh voices with a lot of progressive energy and vision behind them."
Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.