Opinion

Blue wave carries health care to 70,000 Mainers

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There can be no question that Maine saw a blue wave on Election Day.

Voters elected Democrat Janet Mills as governor, flipped the state Senate from Republican to Democratic control and expanded the Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives.

US Rep. Chellie Pingree won decisively in Maine’s 1st Congressional District and is well positioned in a new national Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives.

And US Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, cruised to re-election.

Additionally, it looks like Democrat Jared Golden is on track to upend incumbent US Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the state’s 2nd Congressional District thanks to ranked-choice voting.

Turnout was strong, especially in suburban areas of the state like Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth and in the cities, with Portland outpacing turnout in 2016.

Mills won a majority of votes in the three-way race for governor, becoming the first candidate to capture a majority win since Angus King was re-elected in 1998, and the first to win an outright majority for a first term since Ken Curtis in 1966.

She also became the state’s first woman governor.

The Democratic strength in this election can be partially attributed to a backlash against President Donald Trump and eight divisive and angry years under LePage.

No candidate better represents a repudiation of these two than Mills, who, as attorney general, has acted as a check on many of Gov. Paul LePage’s abuses for much of his two terms in office.

A powerful, smart and tough woman standing up to two demagogues and bullies, Mills is the political antidote to the times.

In her politics, she’s in many ways a moderate, but for the glass ceiling she shattered, she’s revolutionary – an answer to the current politics of misogyny, lies and political theater.

But to call Mills’ victory and the rest of the Maine blue wave just a reaction to the excesses of the president and the governor does a disservice to all the candidates who ran for office, the volunteers and activists who have been working for more than two years and the smart investments by the state party and their national partners to make sure this election was about health care – and not just the foibles and misdeeds of two angry men.

Mills ran a better campaign than Republican Shawn Moody and independent Terry Hayes, and Democratic candidates up and down the ballot worked hard to lay out a compelling vision. Republicans, in the end, resorted to distorted attacks built around fear. That didn’t work.

In one case, a newspaper ad was so inflammatory that the owner of the newspaper who ran it apologized right before the election, saying the ad failed to meet the paper’s community standards.

Democrats identified an issue that impacts Maine people every day – the high cost of health care and the trouble accessing it. While every race around the state was different, Democrats made their stand on providing more people with access to health care – and made Republicans pay for their opposition.

It was the driving, unifying theme of the election. And it worked.

On the day after the election, advocates for low-income Mainers were in court, arguing before a judge that LePage should be required to follow the law and expand Medicaid, as demanded by voters in 2017.

Mills showed up in court just a few hours after her election night win to show her support. She made a promise: On Day 1 of her administration, she would begin to implement Medicaid expansion, which will provide access to health care to more than 70,000 Mainers.

“Dragging our feet on this is inexcusable at this point,” Mills said.

Throughout her campaign, Mills was clear she would expand health care. In short order after winning election, she demonstrated that she would be true to her word.

It wasn’t just new political leaders riding that blue wave, health care for thousands of Mainers just came ashore. It’s about time.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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