Without evidence, let’s move on from speculation on LePage’s health

Good morning from Augusta, where it looks like Gov. Paul LePage’s biggest controversy yet looks to have exited the Maine Legislature and entered the legislative campaigns.

But first, a word on speculation that won’t go away regarding the governor’s health.

To recap: Democratic leaders’ bid to force a special session was dead last week, but House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, only pronounced it dead on Tuesday, after only four Republicans joined in his effort to force a special session on LePage.

Eves hammered Republicans for defending LePage, but didn’t say whether he’d join another longshot effort by Rep. Jeff Evangelos, a Friendship independent, to ask Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to petition Maine’s high court to remove LePage under a never-used provision of the Maine Constitution.

Key to Evangelos’ request are questions about LePage’s “mental competency,” and he’s not alone. Though LePage has denied it, lawmakers in both parties have openly questioned if the governor has mental health or substance abuse issues after his obscene voicemail to a Democratic lawmaker who criticized LePage for comments on black and Hispanic drug traffickers.

This criticism reached a fever pitch on Sunday, when the Portland Press Herald published an op-ed arguing that LePage had substance abuse issues. It was criticized roundly by many, including media types like me and a handful of Democrats. The Press Herald then removed it, saying it “should not have been published” and “did not meet our standards.”

The point is that people who don’t know if someone is having health problems or not shouldn’t be talking about that person’s “health issues.”

It’s why the American Psychiatric Association has the “Goldwater rule” that prohibits its members from “diagnosing” someone they haven’t examined, stemming from the 1964 presidential election, when Republican Barry Goldwater was deemed unfit for the office by nearly half of psychiatrists in a magazine survey.

It’s also why Republican nominee Donald Trump and his surrogates shouldn’t be speculating wildly about the health of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

In this controversy, LePage has definitely brought on fair criticism of his behavior and temperament. But talk of his health is meaningless without evidence. Absent that, it’s something we should move on from. — Michael Shepherd

National Republicans kick off spending spree against Cain

House Republicans’ campaign arm went up with its first ad of 2016 on Tuesday as it looks to defend U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District in his rematch with Democrat Emily Cain.

The National Republican Congressional Committee links Cain to Clinton, who the former legislator from Orono supported in the 2008 and 2016 caucuses.

It cites Cain’s support of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, an issue they’ve long hit her on, her support of a carbon tax and her vote in favor of a compromise state budget in 2013 that avoided a state shutdown and left past income tax cuts intact, but teporarily raised sales, meals and lodging taxes.

Worth noting is that while the ad links Clinton to Cain’s support of a carbon tax, the presidential hopeful has conspicuously left that out of her energy plan, according to The New York Times. Potentially, that could be to avoid the same types of attacks that Cain is facing now.

What’s more notable than the content is the money being devoted to this race: Both party arms and the House Majority PAC, a super PAC linked to House leadership, have reserved nearly $5.9 million in ad time in Maine, according to The Hill.

That makes it the eighth most expensive House race by that measure, and the NRCC is leading the way at $3.2 million in reservations.

That’s nearly double the total spent by outside groups in the 2014 race in the 2nd District, which was Maine’s most expensive House race ever. Things could change and prompt one party or the other to pull out, but we’re not done yet. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The Maine Ethics Commission finalized a rule last week tightening a campaign finance loophole around election house parties, according to the Associated Press. It stemmed from the Maine Senate primary won by Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, in which volunteers bundled $250 contributions to send invitations to a campaign party that didn’t have to be disclosed under Maine law. The new rule ends by saying those types of expenses can’t be shared and can only be made by someone hosting the event on their property. A legal review will follow before the rule becomes effective.
  • Changes made by voters in 2015 led to higher participation in Maine’s taxpayer-funded election system. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections found that 62 percent of legislative candidates are using the Maine Clean Election Act this year, compared to 53 percent in 2014. What’s changed? Voters expanded the program last year after it was weakened by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
  • A bill from Maine’s U.S. representatives easing regulations on sea urchin and sea cucumber processing passed the House on TuesdayNow, urchins are bought by dealers in Maine and Canada and processed in Maine, which boasts 650 processing jobs. Urchins from Canada are inspected when they come for processing and again afterward before the leave the U.S. The bill from Poliquin and Democrat Chellie Pingree of the 1st District would repeal the pre-export inspections for those echinoderms, as well as squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. It now faces action in the Senate. — Michael Shepherd

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About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.