There are many reasons I was likely to vote for Mike Michaud in next year’s gubernatorial race in Maine.
Being honest with myself, I am a liberal-ish kind of guy. During the years where I practiced in the state, I saw how hard-hit its economy continues to be by the near-total evaporation of its industrial base. I believe that a relatively robust system of public services is something a great many people in Maine need. Michaud is one of the more reliably liberal members of Congress, so I imagine he shares my perspective on this.
Which brings me to the other major reason I would almost certainly be voting for Mike Michaud in next year’s election — he is not Paul LePage. I would vote for a lobotomized macaque before I would vote for Gov. LePage. Not only is his… let’s say “colorful” rhetoric a source of nigh unto constant embarrassment to the state, but his prioritization of ideology over actually helping its citizens is stupefying and appalling. If they made “Drooling Macaque for Maine!” bumper stickers, I would have one on my car by now.
So I was a pretty solid Michaud prospect already.
Once I jumped to an early lead in the polls, I knew it was only a matter of time before individuals and organizations intent on re-creating the uncertainty that led to our current governor’s election three years ago would start their attacks. Already my opponents have tried to blatantly distort my support for a woman’s right to choose and my tireless commitment to our nation’s veterans.
So I wasn’t surprised to learn about the whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls some of the people opposed to my candidacy have been using to raise questions about my personal life. They want people to question whether I am gay.
Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: “Yes I am. But why should it matter?”
I… did not expect that.
According to the commentary that followed (a link to which I cannot seem to find just now), apparently this has been something many people already knew, with a tacit understanding that it wouldn’t be discussed much. Back when Michaud was first elected to the Maine legislature in 1980, being gay would have been a huge liability. Now that people no longer seem to care that much about a person’s sexuality, and in a state that legalized marriage equality by referendum, it seems that coming out is seen as the politically smart choice.
Since I’m not much of a political insider in Maine, I had no idea. My only inkling would have been Michaud’s attendance at the EqualityMaine banquet that I also attended the year Maine passed its referendum banning LGBT discrimination. He was, if memory serves, the only high-profile pol there that year. [Edited to add: I have been told by the Better Half that Gov. Baldacci also attended, and that apparently we were seated at his table. Whoopsie!] However, since the banquet is often a draw for progressive politicians (Angus King attended last year), “dude must be gay” wasn’t the conclusion I drew.
If I were to predict a response to this revelation, I would guess at a mild positive effect. I think pretty much all the non-LePage voters who split their votes between Democratic and Independent candidates last time share my “Macaque 2014!” sentiments, and would happily vote Michaud under just about any circumstances. Adding in the historic factor of electing the first openly gay governor may give a bit of a boost. Michaud is from the 2nd District, and has always easily won re-election to Congress. Even though it’s the more conservative part of the state, I suspect his popularity there may mitigate whatever negative effect his sexuality might have with voters.
Do I think it would be great to elect an openly gay governor? You bet! But it wouldn’t have made me support him if I weren’t already inclined to like his policies. If Ken Mehlman relocates to Kennebunkport and launches a political bid here, I will happily support his straight opponent. This announcement doesn’t really affect my vote.
And now we’ll just have to wait and see how well I know my adopted state.