Election Results Differ for Two Key Maine Groups

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The Maine Conservation Voters, the political arm of the Maine Conservation Alliance and the only state environmental group that endorses political candidates, and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, whose endorsements have always been highly sought and valued by candidates, got very different results in the 2012 election.

SAM took a step backward, endorsing less than half the group’s usual number of candidates and abandoning its history of nonpartisanship. The group’s endorsements heavily favored Republican candidates, a bad decision in a year when Democrats regained control of both the House and Senate.

The Maine Conservation Voters made a better bet, although that group’s long-standing bias toward Democrats continues to irritate Republican legislators and leaders and has prevented the group from broadening its appeal and standing beyond the state’s environmental activists.

SAM’s 2012 Election Results

SAM endorsed only 14 Senate candidates, 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Ten of their endorsed candidates were victorious, for a 71 percent success rate.

SAM endorsed 44 House candidates, 35 Republicans and just 9 Democrats. Twenty seven of their endorsed candidates won, for a disappointing 61 percent success rate.

The 58 endorsements and 37 victories fell far short of the norm for this powerful statewide organization, as did this election’s success rate. For example, 24 of 35 members of the Maine Senate were elected with SAM’s endorsement or grade of A in 2008, and 66 House members were elected with SAM’s endorsement or grade of A that year. Ninety two percent of SAM’s endorsed Senate candidates and 89 percent of SAM’s endorsed House candidates won that year.

In the previous election of 2006, a record 92 percent of SAM’s endorsed Senate candidates and 85 percent of SAM’s endorsed House candidates were victorious. In the 35-member Senate, SAM endorsed 24 candidates and 22 of them won. In the 151-member House, SAM endorsed 61 candidates and 52 of them won. SAM received 153 applications for endorsements from House candidates and 56 from Senate candidates that year.

Apparently the group received far less surveys and applications from candidates this year than it has in the past.

SAM also worked hard in the past to be nonpartisan in it’s endorsement process, endorsing 37 percent of the House Democrats and 39 percent of the House Republicans who applied in 2006, and 35 percent of the Senate Democrats and 50 percent of the Senate Republicans who applied that year.

MCV’s 2012 Election Results

The Maine Conservation Voters endorsed 21 Senate candidates: 2 Independents, 3 Republicans, and 16 Democrats. Sixteen of their endorsed candidates won for a 76 percent victory rate.

The group endorsed 77 House candidates: 4 Independents, 4 Republicans, and 69 Democrats. 64 of their endorsed candidates were victorious, for an excellent 83 percent success rate.

Of course, the group’s bias toward Democratic candidates really helped the group this election.

What This All Means

SAM enters the 2013 legislative process weakened by its election campaign decisions. MCA starts the session in a much stronger position.

Only 37 of 186 legislators in the new legislature were endorsed by SAM while 80 were endorsed by MCA.

But a couple of other things are obvious to me. MCA is strong with Democrats but has almost no support in the ranks of Republican legislators. SAM leaned this year toward Republicans and is in trouble with the Democrats who control the legislature this session.

And even though sportsmen and environmentalists have much in common, these two groups that serve as their major players, respectively, in Maine political campaigns, found only 7 candidates they could both endorse! Something seems terribly wrong here, to me.

While SAM’s Dave Trahan scrambles to recover from the group’s unfortunate endorsement decisions and election results, Maureen Drouin, the executive director of both the Maine Conservation Voters and the Maine Conservation Alliance, will need to show restraint in her group’s legislative agenda, because the legislative Democratic majority doesn’t have enough votes to over-ride Governor Paul LePage’s vetos.

Reasonable environmental legislation will have a chance of gathering the needed Republican legislative support. Over-reaching on the issues will lead to a very disappointing legislative session for the Maine Conservation Alliance.

And perhaps the most obvious conclusion is this: between them, SAM and MCV endorsed 117 of the 186 legislators who arrive in Augusta next week to begin the next legislative session. Together, they are very strong.

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