Yesterday, Republican former legislator Jon McKane’s nomination to serve on the Board of Dirigo Health was voted down 8-5 by the members of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. All the Democratic members of the committee voted against the nominee and were joined by independent Senator Richard Woodbury.
At issue was derogatory language that McKane has used to attack the Dirigo Health program and its administrators and supporters over the past eight years, particularly in a long-running series of posts on the right-wing message board As Maine Goes. Legislators questioned whether McKane could play a productive role on the board given his history and members of the public testified about the offense they took at his online behavior.
“Ashley Gorczyca, a social worker, likened McKane’s attitude to that of an ‘Internet troll,’ rather than someone suited to be a trustee,” notes the Portland Press Herald.
Perhaps most damning for McKane was the testimony of Rachel Sukeforth, a 2012 Maine House candidate who lost by just four votes against a Republican incumbent in District 80. Sukeforth, a graduate of the Emerge Maine program and an advocate for women’s involvement in politics, took particular issue with McKane’s repeated use of the insult “Dirigirls” to refer to both male and female supporters and administrators of the health care program.
Below is the video of her testimony. You can read the full transcript and find links to some of McKane’s comments here.
(A representative of the Maine People’s Alliance, an organization for which I work, also testified against McKane’s nomination.)
Governor LePage responded with a statement accusing Democratic legislators of engaging in “partisan politics” and vowed not to nominate anyone else for the position. That’s a strange argument to make, considering that LePage’s other two nominees for the board, both also former Republican lawmakers, were approved unanimously.
House Republican Communications Director David Sorensen took to Twitter to declare: “In spiteful break w/legislative etiquette, Dems attack nominee before voting no. Usually attack then approve, or just vote no.”
Setting aside the fact that Sorensen has ignored far greater breaches of “legislative etiquette” by Governor LePage when the chief executive first refused to meet with legislative leaders and then refused to even engage in the legislative process, Sorensen’s contention that hearings should be mere kabuki theater is troubling. What’s the point in legislators asking questions if they can’t use the answers to inform their votes?
Personally, I’m surprised it took this long for McKane to be called to account for his conduct. I’ve been wondering how long a public figure can get away with making the kinds of statements he has. I guess the answer is eight years.