It’s been eight years since Maine had a new governor, and we’ve only had two in the last 16 years: Paul LePage and John Baldacci.
New governors don’t come around very often, so it’s fitting to note their arrival. This was done with a fair amount of pomp and circumstance at last week’s inauguration of Maine’s first female governor, Janet Mills. Bagpipers, religious leaders, her family and friends, and the Legislature’s bigwigs were there to welcome a new dispensation in Maine’s government.
I have to say it was a little surreal watching the event, held at the Augusta Civic Center, on TV. Mainly because I barely recognized Gov. Janet (the moniker she prefers). Mills either drank too much coffee beforehand or she has exchanged personalities since the campaign ended.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the way she embraced the moment. She seemed to be having the time of her life, hopping and bopping as she marched toward the stage, hugging those along the aisle.
And she delivered her speech as enthusiastically as any I’ve heard. She seemed raring to go, eager to change Maine into a new thing, a state that President George H.W. Bush would have been proud of: A kinder, gentler state government that expands Medicaid, that promises to reverse climate change by installing solar panels on the Blaine House and erases any memory of indigenous peoples from the sports fields of Maine.
During the proceedings, I had this nagging thought: Who is this new Janet Mills? It seems she’s been around Augusta forever – in the Legislature, in the Office of the Attorney General, on our TVs commenting on one thing or another. She’s deadly serious. She’s tough. She’ll lash out if she feels threatened, especially when dealing recently with her main foe, LePage.
I thought I knew Gov. Janet’s style until I watched this inauguration. She was totally different from her usual dour, and sometimes sour, self. I watched two of the debates and she was downright petty and passive-aggressive toward independent candidate Terry Hayes. So how did Mills’ just-the-facts-ma’am persona suddenly shift to bubbly and giddy?
Is this the way she really is, and we’re just seeing it for the first time? Is she finally able to be herself because she’s won the ultimate election of her life, her ambition for years, and she knows she has four years before the next one rolls around?
Whatever the reason, it’s disconcerting. I understand she’s happy to win, but it left me wondering, who is the real Janet Mills? I kind of liked the strong, serious Mills. Which version will govern Maine for the next four years?
Mills’ inauguration seemed to be a party for Maine’s liberal elite, with Mills the maestro. They cheered and clapped as Mills rolled out one radical policy change after another, quietly knowing they can do what they want because they dominate two branches of government.
Mills’ and her fellow Democrats’ collective giddiness worries me because we all know what happens when one party has complete power, especially Democrats. Excessive taxation. Closed-mindedness. Ramrodding of sweeping policy changes. The Obama-Pelosi years were scary because of their absolute power.
The next few years will test the Democrats’ ability to resist the evils of unchecked power. We’ll see if they keep the taxpayer in mind, or whether they bow to special interests as they wield their new-found reins.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.