Ridiculous and sublime

Maine got stranger in 2008
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  December 23, 2008

Well, it's been a year. Certainly what will stick out most in our minds are those wonderful hours late on November 4, when we hugged and cheered and attempted to get from one side of Empire to the other without spilling our beer. But there was other big-ticket news in 2008, namely the outcomes of other elections, as well as several business developments that will change Maine's economic landscape; these made us waver between smiling and rolling our eyes. Here's a round-up of what we won't forget from the past year.

A little something called November 4
There were exciting elections on the local, state, and (obviously) national level this year.

Locally, Portland elected two new city councilors — community organizer and Democratic activist Dory Waxman, and former school committee chairman John Coyne (see "Portland City Council: A Look At Who's Running for City Hall," by Deirdre Fulton, October 31). Waxman unseated former mayor and "maverick" Ed Suslovic; some observers suggested Suslovic split the more progressive vote with Green Independent Tina Smith.

Portlanders voted to send some new faces to Augusta, including new state senator Justin Alfond, and freshman representatives Steve Lovejoy, Diane Russell, Peter Stuckey, and Joan Cohen. The biggest issues in the state elections were the failing economy and healthcare (see "Maine House Candidates: Who Wants to Go to Augusta?" by Deirdre Fulton, October 31) — namely, what to do with the failed experiment that is Dirigo Health (see "Baldacci Raids the Cookie Jar," by Lance Tapley, October 15). Speaking of which, voters struck down a new bottle tax that would have helped fund Dirigo, and also said no to building a casino in Oxford Hills.

Democrat and former state senator Chellie Pingree won a long, hard-fought race to represent Congressional District 1 in Washington, DC. The field started with twelve relatively impressive candidates (see "DC Wannabes," by Deirdre Fulton, December 26, 2007), who were whittled down to two in the June primaries (see "Top 10 Questions for Maine Voters," by Deirdre Fulton, May 28): Pingree, and Republican Iraq war vet Charlie Summers. Despite questions about Pingree's connections to high-powered hedge-fund lobbyists, she pulled out a win in the end.

The man whose seat Pingree is taking, Democrat Tom Allen, didn't fare so well. Despite the Allen campaign's attempts to tie her to our hugely unpopular lame-duck president, "moderate" Republican Susan Collins trounced Allen on November 4, and will hold onto her US Senate seat for six more years. Allen, for his part, says he'll probably not seek elective office again, but is hoping for some sort of gig in the new administration.

Which leads us to the obvious: Some dude named Obama won the presidency. Portland went bananas for Obama, first on primary day, and through the general election. (See photos from Election Night at thePhoenix.com/About Town.)

Maine State Pier predicament
We thought that once the City Council chose a company to develop the Maine State Pier, this contentious development debacle would come to an end. We thought wrong. An ongoing dispute between the city and the state over who owns the submerged lands beneath the pier led to Olympia Cos. — the company that won the bid to develop the property with a tie-breaking vote from then-councilor Ed Suslovic — pulling out of its deal with the city (see "Council Sinks Pier Deal, Floats Arts TIF," by Deirdre Fulton, November 16). Now, the council will reestablish negotiations with Ocean Properties, the New Hampshire-based company with ties to the Baldacci administration (the governor's brother, Bob Baldacci, was OP's vice-president, and the gov's cousin, former US senator George Mitchell, is part of the team).

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