5 Takeaways for Businesses from the 2022 Maine Election
This month in Maine, like in much of the rest of the county, Democrats greatly outperformed expectations on Election Day. Read on to learn about the biggest surprises, funding opportunities for businesses of all types, and what to keep on your radar over the next few months
1) What were some of the biggest surprises from the election in Maine?
Nationally, people expected a red wave. This is because (historically) at a Presidential midterm, the President’s party almost always loses seats in the House and/or the Senate, which trickles down to states—as one source says, the midterms are “often thought of as a referendum on the current administration’s performance.” In the last month of election, Democrats were anxious that one or both legislative chambers would be at risk.
But Democrats retained their 22-seat majority in the Senate and actually increased their majority in the House, ending the night with an 84-67 advantage (which includes 2 left-leaning Independents).
Another election surprise was the expectation that the race between Governor Janet Mills and former Governor Paul LePage would be much closer: observers believed that Mills would dominate the 1st Congressional District while Lepage would win handily in the 2nd Congressional District. Not only did Mills hold a large margin in the 1st District as expected, but she only narrowly lost the 2nd District, leading to her re-election by a wide margin—55% to 43%.
2) Which outcomes will impact the business community most directly?
With the Mills administration remaining in place, the next four years will be more predictable for the business community. The revenue forecast in Maine remains strong—the Maine State Government is expected to be spending more money due to surplus revenue, and there is federal funding available that creates opportunities for businesses, non-profit organizations, and government entities. At Bernstein Shur, our Government and Public Affairs practice group helps clients navigate these opportunities.
For example, one opportunity stems from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill—a law meant to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure—and others passed by Congress in 2021. The State and Counties are spending down federal funds from Congress, but having consistency in the Mills administration with the same team overseeing spending is beneficial to the business community as they are already interfacing with the team dispersing money.
Another opportunity for Maine non-profit organizations and government entities is to apply for funding through Congressional earmarks. In March of 2022, President Biden passed a $1.5 trillion spending bill, resurrecting the practice of allowing lawmakers to direct federal funds—known as earmarks— for local projects that enhance community priorities, transportation, health care, education, job opportunities, and other important economic development. In Maine, this included more than $100 million in special appropriations secured by Senator Susan Collins and Angus King, supporting organizations like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Maine College of Art and Design, and the Center for Grieving Children, among many others.
It remains to be seen what will happen with earmarks in Congress as a result of the election. In Maine, Representative Chellie Pingree easily beat her challenger, Ed Thelander, in the 1st Congressional District. Pingree is a subcommittee Chair on the Appropriations Committee in Congress helping to advocate for earmark funding. While Republicans may end up retaking the House, Pingree is expected to continue her service on the Committee. Congressman Jared Golden defeated former Congressman Bruce Poliquin in a rematch of 2018. Golden has been an effective advocate for spending in his district. Our team helps clients access funding by connecting them to the Congressional offices to educate them about the project and find out if they are eligible and what accounts they could get money from.
3) Looking forward, what are some upcoming issues for businesses to watch closely?
Two key issues that businesses should watch closely are home and business heating relief and a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program petition.
Governor Mills consistently advocates for heating relief, given the rising price of fuel and gas. She is vocal about how increased energy prices will impact Maine small businesses and non-profit organizations, most recently announcing $7 million in energy relief in the form of a one-time $2,000+ electric utility account credit.
Businesses should also be aware of the petition underway for a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. This could be addressed in the legislature, or it could be on the ballot in 2023 or 2024. If passed, this bill would impact businesses of different sizes in different ways.
4) How do clients work with your team during election season?
Our Government and Public Affairs practice group works with clients to provide a broad range of electoral and public policy counsel. For the 2022 cycle, we provided strategic advice and communications guidance to Governor Janet Mills, served as general counsel to the Maine Democratic Party, and advised multiple clients on corporate donations to political action committees in Maine. Additionally, the group provides comprehensive compliance services to both state and national organizations operating in state.
We also advise clients on scenario planning for what various election outcomes will mean for legislation or Congress and how that will impact our clients. With this year’s election, there is more predictability given we will have four more years of Democratic control in the House, Senate, and Governor’s Mansion—but if Former Governor Paul LePage had been elected, we’d jump into action to help our clients understand how his outlook differs from Governor Janet Mills’ and what’s coming down the line that would impact them.
5) How and where can businesses learn more about how election outcomes affect them/their operations?
From political campaigning to navigating the complex processes to secure funding, the Government and Public Affairs practice group is here to assess your business to find funding opportunities, advise on public affairs, and offer forward-looking outlooks relevant to your industry. Contact me at email@example.com for support today.