Mayhew’s Bid for Blaine House

Republican gubernatorial candidate posed with Washington County Sheriff Barry Curtis at the March 17 meeting of the Washington County Republicans. “We have significant challenges that face us in our state and in our country,” said Mayhew. “But we have a lot to be proud of for what we’ve taken on and what we’ve accomplished.” (Photo courtesy office of Mary Mayhew)

By Sarah Craighead 

Dedmon

 

Mary Mayhew is the youngest of four children, raised in Pittsfield by parents who were Democrats. Today, she’s working to become the next Republican governor of Maine.

“If my Dad was alive today, I doubt very much he would be a Democrat [anymore],” said Mayhew. “They were both very fiscally and socially conservative. So the party left them, left me.”

If elected, Mayhew would be the first female governor of Maine. For most of Governor LePage’s terms in office, Mayhew served as the commissioner of the high-profile department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). She departed in May of 2017 in order to launch her bid for the Blaine House. 

At a meeting of the Washington County Republicans on Saturday, March 17, she spoke candidly about her experience in the public eye.

“I’m battle-tested with proven results,” said Mayhew. “I can hit the ground running, and nobody needs to tell me where the bathrooms are,” she said. 

“I’ve been called every name in the book, caricatured.” One of her favorite political cartoons depicted her as Marie Antoinette when she was working on food stamp reform. Another paired her with Gov. Paul Lepage as 1960s cartoon Russian spies, Boris and Natasha.

Downeast Correctional

During her presentation Mayhew was questioned about the embattled Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) which was closed on Feb. 9 by LePage, who was then ordered to reopen it by a Superior Court judge on March 16.

“I do not believe that government jobs should ever be equated with economic development,” said Mayhew, before citing a parallel from her work with DHHS where she was responsible for the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor. Like DCF, the existence of Dorothea Dix is encoded in statute, meaning the legislature has the final say in whether it operates, or not.  

“The argument about the jail has to be based on [the question], is it cost effective? Is it efficient?” said Mayhew.

“But then it is about process, which is where the judge has come down. That is my understanding, that it is in the statute that a facility must exist there.”

The top priority

Mayhew is crystal clear on her first priority as governor. “Improving our economy by cutting taxes and rolling back regulations,” she said. At a policy level, Mayhew’s governorship would not look substantially different from the LePage governorship, she said.

“We believe, I believe that our future, and the opportunity for Maine, is tied to an emphasis on a private-sector free market, reducing the size of government, keeping government  focused on core priorities around infrastructure, roads and bridges, a strong safety net and education,” said Mayhew.

“I firmly believe that Maine has an opportunity to grow its economy and compete with states like New Hampshire and Texas and Florida and Tennessee. This isn’t just about climate,” she said. “New Hampshire leads the country today with its per capita income. That’s not about people wanting to be in a warmer climate. It’s about an attitude — Live Free or Die.”

Data-driven decisions

During her tenure at DHHS, Mayhew said she became focused on finding quality data to inform the department’s decisions. “I asked ‘How do we know through objective data that this is the right outcome, and that this strategy is going to produce that outcome?’ It’s so critically important that government embrace [good data],” said Mayhew.

Mayhew says government can use that data to make decisions on how to handle anything from the opioid epidemic to diabetes care. “You’re looking at processes from an efficiency perspective, analyzing every step,” she said. “Is it the right step, and what is the outcome?”

“That is a sea change in government. A huge sea change.”   

Mayhew sees a connection between rural Maine’s employment and health care challenges, and believes putting people back to work can improve their health. “We know that when people work, their health is better,” she said. “There is certainly a strong connection between someone who is working, happy, leading a productive life and their physical health.” 

But beyond improving rural Maine’s economy, Mayhew said that healthcare outcomes can be improved with greater accountability. 

“How well are our healthcare providers supporting early intervention, screening and management?” she said. “Ultimately you may need to get a little more aggressive and begin to tie payment to performance.”

Referendums

Mayhew said she’s opposed to using ranked choice voting in Maine, something that was passed by voters in the November 2016 referendum election. Ranked choice voting is a method that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. “Ranked choice voting undermines the integrity of our voting process,” said Mayhew. “On June 12 I’d like to be celebrating my election, and I doubt we’ll know the results on June 12.”

There are ways to improve Maine’s referendum process, said Mayhew, without changing the state constitution.

Currently a ballot measure requires a fixed number of signatures from anywhere in the state, something Mayhew believes should change because all of those signatures could be found just around Portland, omitting rural Maine’s feedback. “We should need signatures in every senate district,” said Mayhew. “That way it’s more representative of the voting public.” The state could also raise the percentage of voters required to approve a ballot measure. Currently a measure passes with a simple majority. 

Recreational marijuana was also approved in the 2016 referendum election, and by six-tenths of a percentage point. “I’m adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana and I think the law should be repealed,” said Mayhew.

With Michael Thibodeau’s recent resignation from the race, Mayhew’s Republican opponents now number three: Shawn Moody, Garrett Mason and Ken Fredette.

“I’m running for governor because we can’t take our feet off the gas pedal. The decisions I made [as DHHS commissioner] were informed by common sense, conservative principles,” said Mayhew, who points to her lengthy term managing DHHS as proof that she’s ready to handle the Blaine House. 

“Many folks in government can develop a bunker mentality — how to stay off the front page of the newspaper. I used to joke that if I sneezed I was on the front page or evening news.”