Another LePage nominee faces legislative roadblock
Good morning from Augusta, where Senate Democrats and Republicans are poised to face off today over Gov. Paul LePage’s pick to lead the Maine State Housing Authority.
The Senate is scheduled to vote today whether to confirm George Gervais, LePage’s current economic development director, to the post. Most of the time, these nominations breeze through the Senate. But in this case, a two-thirds vote will be required for confirmation because a legislative committee recommended against Gervais after a bruising interview with the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee last week and a partisan 7-6 vote against him.
Although he had won unanimous approval as economic development commissioner in 2011, Democrats weren’t satisfied that Gervais’ professional experience in the housing sector is strong enough and said they were concerned about his past work for a mortgage lender and as owner of restaurants that went bankrupt. Gervais said he never sold a subprime loan and attributed the bankruptcy to how rough the restaurant business can be.
History does not favor Gervais’ nomination, which appears on today’s Senate calendar, While the majority of LePage’s nominees — even some who irked Democrats, such as judicial nominee Dan Billings in 2012 — have sailed through, legislative Democrats have occasionally used their majority status on committees to thwart the governor. In 2013, former Republican state Rep. Jonathan McKane of Newcastle withdrew from consideration for the Dirigo Health board of trustees after Democrats on the Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee voted 8-5 against recommending him. McKane had been a leading Dirigo opponent during his time in the House.
In 2014, Democrats on the Legislature’s Education Committee attacked Susan Dench of Falmouth, a marketing professional, during the recommendation process. Dench, nominated by LePage for the University of Maine System board of trustees, came under fire for some of her conservative views on gender roles, some of which she wrote about as a Bangor Daily News blogger. The Senate, then controlled by Democrats, voted 17-15 against her nomination.
In February 2016, LePage pulled back his nomination for education commissioner after a brutal interview with the Legislature’s Education Committee.Former Husson University president and gubernatorial candidate Bill Beardsley –– who like Gervais had previously won Senate approval for his nomination as a commissioner — came under fire for his past involvement with Robert Carlson, a disgraced Bangor-area minister, and for his views on transgender issues. LePage reacted by withdrawing Beardsley’s name for consideration. LePage shuffled Beardsley and others through the education department’s top spot until April 2017, when he nominated Robert Hasson Jr. to the post. He breezed through the nomination process.
In March 2016, Democrats scuttled LePage’s pick for an unemployment insurance appeals board. Democrats on the labor committee voted 7-6 against South Portland police Detective Sgt. Steven Webster because of what they perceived as a faulty temperament and social media posts. LePage responded by rescinding Webster’s nomination.
In April 2016, LePage’s nomination for the Maine Board of Environmental Protection, barely made it to a positive recommendation in the committee vetting process with a 6-5 vote. Former state Rep. Kathleen Chase of Wells came under fire from environmental groups, but was confirmed to the position anyway.
And in October 2017, LePage rescinded five judicial nominees on the day they were to be confirmed in the Senate, but quickly canceled that action. All five judges were confirmed.
With a two-thirds vote required for confirmation, Gervais will have to win over seven Senate Democrats. Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, who serves on the labor committee, voted against him and was one of his harshest critics during last week’s committee hearing. So he’s unlikely to secure her vote. That leaves 16 Democratic senators in play. We’ll keep you posted.
The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Another LePage nominee faces legislative roadblock,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Christopher Cousins, please follow this link to the BDN online.