With veto fight over, will strained relationships reset in Augusta?

Good Friday morning. The weekend is nearly upon us, but the week that was in politics went out with a bang Thursday evening. 

There was the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opining against Gov. Paul LePage in the curious case of disputed laws; Then the 10 top GOP presidential contenders met for a raucous debate in Cleveland; Lastly, Jon Stewart hosted his final “Daily Show.”

Let’s focus on that first one: With the court’s opinion released and the governor saying he’ll abide and enforce those 65 laws, the dispute over all those vetoes is (seemingly) finally over.

So, with the first regular session of the 127th Legislature finally, definitively, over, how will Augusta proceed? Will the frayed relationship between LePage and lawmakers, which defined this session, continue into the next, or will everyone in the State House find their chill?

LePage maintained all along that his only interest in the fight over those vetoes was “getting it right.” But many observers in and out of the State House suspected there was something else at play: A continuation of the governor’s self-described effort to “waste a little of [lawmakers’] time” by throwing wrenches in the gears of the legislative process.

Now, some big conservative names are calling for the governor to simmer down.

“I encourage the Administration to reset their relationship with the Legislature to foster an environment of engagement and collaboration,” Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said in a news release yesterday. “Effective leadership requires instilling confidence both in our colleagues in Augusta and constituents back home. When that confidence is shaken we should not be surprised when we are unable to accomplish our goals.”

Then there’s Lance Dutson, a longtime Republican strategist who’s worked in the Maine Legislature and in U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ staff. Here’s his take:

“As he has stated, the Governor’s aim with these vetoes was to waste the Legislature’s time.  Going forward, as Republicans, we need to refocus on effectively governing the State of Maine,” Dutson said in an email blast from his new group, Get Right Maine. “We hope that this ruling will result in a different pattern of conduct from this Administration, one that more closely resembles the tradition of Maine Republican statesmanship that so many of our elected officials have exemplified. The time for political games, inflammatory rhetoric, and irresponsible governing is over.”

Thibodeau and Dutson have little to gain by criticizing a sitting Republican governor, but both figure there could be a lot to gain by a more functional relationship between LePage and lawmakers — at least the legislators in the Republican Party that LePage ostensibly leads. Republicans in the Legislature bore LePage’s scorn this year almost as frequently as their Democratic counterparts. 

For his part, LePage also seems interested in putting the fight squarely in his rear view, saying in a news release yesterday that “We look forward to moving on and continuing to work for the Maine people.”

It feels like a long time before January, when the next session convenes. We’ll see if the months out of session bring any calm to the State House. — Mario Moretto, BDN. 

Lewiston native to head Federal Highway Administration

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Lewiston native Greg Nadeau as head of the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA.

Both of Maine’s U.S. senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, voted to confirm Nadeau, and praised him as the “right person to lead the Federal Highway Adminsitration.”

“He is a true leader whose experience and strength of character position him to lead this critical agency into the future,” said Collins and King in a joint statement. “We are delighted the Senate unanimously approved his nomination and look forward to working with him to modernize America’s highway system.”

Nadeau and King go way back. Nadeau one of King’s senior policy advisers back when Angus was governor, from 1995 to 2002.

After that, Naduea was deputy commissioner for policy, planning and communication for the Maine Department of Transportation, a post he held until 2009 when he went to Washington as deputy administrator of the FHWA. He’s been acting administrator since May, when Obama nominated him for the top job. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Reading list

Goodbye, Jon Stewart

Did you watch Jon Stewart’s last hurrah hosting “The Daily Show” last night? I’ll probably watch it on-demand sometime today, but his departure has been talked about a lot in the last few days. (My favorite piece was this one, by Poynter, in which media critics criticized Stewart’s media criticism — say that five times fast).

Here on the home front, the BDN’s Erin Rhoda compiled some of Stewart’s Maine greatest hits, including interviews and videos with Stephen King, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Check it out.

One quick addition: Remember when Stewart skewered The Redneck Olympics — I mean, the Redneck “Blank” — back in 2012? That was a gem. — Mario Moretto, BDN.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.