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Maine Senate eyed as 2014 battleground

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745px-MaineStateHouse1The Maine State Senate is one of the top 5 electoral battlegrounds in the country, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.

The Senate is currently comprised of 19 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent who is not seeking reelection. Any change to the Majority would greatly impact the policy ambitions of both parties. 

Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said the WSJ article conveys to a national audience what Republicans in the state have known all year: the Senate is up for grabs.

“Republicans are in a great position to make gains in the November elections in the Maine House and Senate,” Bennett said in a press release. “Our message of responsible and limited government, a pro-growth and pro-jobs approach to our economy, an absolute commitment to your individual freedom, and a willingness to fix Maine’s broken welfare system are resonating with hard-working Maine people from Fort Kent to Kittery.”

In an unusual sign of party strength, Republicans are contesting every Legislative seat in Maine — a broad effort that may well change the Majority party in one or both of Maine’s legislative bodies.

If the Republicans can take the House, the Senate, or both, Democrats will find themselves in a frustrating situation — regardless of who wins with governor’s race.

Confined to minority status under a reelected Gov. Paul LePage, Democrats would be in for a repeat of the 125th Legislature, when Republicans achieved several long-desired policy goals. But even one of LePage’s challengers becomes governor, Democrats would likely find their agenda stymied by a Republican-controlled legislative body.

The Democratic majority is made further vulnerable by the lack of significant accomplishments under the reign of Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick). Alfond and Eves made Medicaid expansion the signature issue for Democrats but failed several times to enact the policy over LePage’s veto. Apart from several failed attempts to expand the medical welfare program, Democrats have little to tell constituents about.

Democrats seeking reelection are most vulnerable on the issue of welfare reform, where several unforced errors have opened them to legitimate criticisms from conservatives, moderates and even many liberals.

Last year, Democrats voted against a bill that would have prevented Food Stamp users from spending their benefits on junk food. This year, they voted down four GOP-backed measured to reform the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash welfare program. Democrats even rejected a bill that would have prevented EBT cardholders from accessing their benefits in liquor stores and cigarette shops.

In GOP members constituent surveys, welfare reform almost always ranks as a top priority. So you can bet that Republicans running for reelection, and for the first time, will be campaigning on welfare reform.

The WSJ article can be found here. (Note: pay wall)

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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