Election whoas

Diverse-city
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  November 11, 2010

I have something to say about our elections this month here in Maine: Never before have a I seen such a classist, racist, lock-step-thinking set of results in my time living here, and I —

OK, kidding; kidding. Just wanted to get a rise out of the people who still think I'm all "Maine is a mess" and "White people suck."

Sure, I have my problems with the election, like not being particularly fond of the possibility of a racino being built so close to where I live and wondering how well Paul LePage is going to serve Maine — given his abrasive personality and his politics — but overall, to be honest, I found the election to be an affirmation of just how diverse the political mindset is in this state, and I don't just mean "blue" in the south and "red" in the north.

In fact, overall, Mainers seem to be of a mind to speak their mind, or vote it at least, and not to be beholden to a particular predictable track. This is something I admire, because it's generally how I feel; heck, I voted in George W. Bush one time and cast a vote for Ralph Nader another.

This election showed me the power of the independent here. You see, there are a lot of independent voters in Maine, and this election made that clear. For a long time, it seemed like the gubernatorial race was between Democrat Elizabeth "Libby" Mitchell and Republican Paul LePage.

Then the polls started telling us that it was a dead-heat between LePage and the duo of Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler. Except that theoretically meant Mitchell and Cutler would split the "Democratic" vote that was needed to defeat LePage.

I know a lot of people who were dead-set on voting for Mitchell because they were committed Democrats, and they stuck to their guns when they went to the polls, even as her chances began to seem pretty slim and Cutler was gaining steam. There were, of course, also die-hard Republicans who were going to vote for LePage even if it turned out that he had a hobby of drowning puppies for fun.

But it was the independent bloc that made the race something interesting and showed that Mainers don't like to be boxed in politically. That bloc was made up of people who officially identified as "Independent" and those who were simply undecided this time around. There are distinctions between the two groups, subtle thought they may be, but the end result is that they were all independent.

And so, suddenly and without warning, on Election Day, we saw a split of 40-something percent of the vote between Mitchell and Cutler (with an "assurance" that LePage would snag something at least in the mid-40s and win) become a slew of people voting for Cutler and make it a dead heat between him and LePage.

In the end, LePage won by just a single percentage point. He didn't get as many votes as polls had predicted, and Cutler got a lot more than predicted.

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