Spineless

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Who are Maine’s toughest and wimpiest politicians?

To answer that question, I conducted a comprehensive survey (which involved sitting in my office, drinking beer and binge watching old episodes of “Mike Tyson Mysteries”). This highly scientific method of determining strength of character produced two definitive lists, which I’ll share with you this week and next.

First, the wimps. Here are the top 10, ranked by decreasing quantity of backbone.

10. Ken Fredette. The House minority leader was once an up-and-comer in the Republican Party, a thoughtful, articulate advocate for conservative ideals. Now, he’s Maine’s version of Chris Christie, reduced to serving as Gov. Paul LePage’s sock puppet.

9. Chellie Pingree. The Democratic 1st District U.S. representative used to be a strong advocate for campaign finance reform – until she married (and divorced) a hedge fund manager. Today, she fights for federal legislation changing the expiration date on food labels. Her website (which appears to have been written for first graders) offers this adventurous economic development plan: “[W]e need investment in our state and support for small business.” Well, duh.

8. Angus King. Our allegedly independent U.S. senator doesn’t quite dare to take a stand on whether Roxanne Quimby’s land east of Baxter State Park should be declared a national monument. Instead, King goes around saying he’s – wink, wink, nod, nod – willing to listen to arguments from both sides. That prostate operation he had last year may have removed more than a tumor.

7. Susan Collins. Will she endorse Donald Trump for president? Maybe later – or possibly she’ll write somebody in. Courageously, Collins said she agrees with Trump on some issues, but not others. In the end, the Republican U.S. senator will likely do whatever seems most expedient in maintaining her moderate image.

6. Bruce Poliquin. “[L]et me be clear: I do not believe in discrimination – period,” the 2nd District GOP congressman wrote in an op-ed. “We should stamp it out wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.” In reality, Poliquin has voted both ways on federal legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, but mostly against it. In an homage to the 1990s, though, he favors civil unions. Also, his refusal to even discuss Trump makes Collins look decisive.

5. Ethan Strimling. Portland’s Democratic mayor ran for office last year on a promise of collaboration. After the election, he announced he needed to hire a highly paid staffer to help with that collaborating. He then issued a scathing critique of the proposed city budget, saying it favored “public works over preventive health.” Shortly thereafter, overcome by collaboritis, he voted for it.

4. Emily Cain. She’s been the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat twice, both times running on a platform entirely consisting of her not being Bruce Poliquin. But hardly anybody is Bruce Poliquin, so maybe she ought to offer something more definitive. Like proving she’s not Libby Mitchell on Botox.

3. The Maine media. The state still has a few good political reporters: Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd at the Bangor Daily News, Naomi Schalit at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, Steve Mistler at Maine Public Radio, Scott Thistle at the Portland Press Herald. But in editors’ offices and publishers’ suites, there are only gray blobs of quivering protoplasm.

2. The solar meltdowns. In April, the state House fell two votes short of overriding LePage’s veto of a bill encouraging solar-energy development. But on a second attempt to save the measure, five Republicans who’d voted for the override couldn’t take the heat. Under pressure from the governor’s henchmen, Michael Timmons of Cumberland, Brian Hobart of Bowdoinham, MaryAnn Kinney of Knox and John Pichiottti of Fairfield disappeared just before the roll call began. Kathleen Dillingham of Oxford dithered in her seat, but never voted.

1. The public-land bond weasels. Last year, the Legislature passed a bill compelling LePage to release voter-approved bonds for land conservation. The governor vetoed the measure, and his veto was sustained after six GOP House members who’d supported the bill caved to LePage and switched sides. They are Jeffrey Pierce of Dresden, Bruce Bickford of Auburn, Stacey Guerin of Glenburn, Thomas Skolfield of Weld, Stephen Wood of Greene – and, once again, Michael Timmons of Cumberland, Maine’s wimpiest politician.

Next week, the toughies. Offer nominations at aldiamon@herniahill.net.