Too many chefs ruining dinner? Or, does Maine government need a structural shakeup?

Cynthia: Mike, now that Angus King has committed to again caucus with the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, can we stop pretending Democrats haven’t won a race in the last three statewide elections?

Mike: While I agree that Angus’s political views hew pretty close to Democratic orthodoxy, he doesn’t count for purposes of electoral victories. Neither would’ve Eliot, despite Ben Grant’s attempts to recruit him. It seems the only statewide offices your side can win are ones in which Democratic politicians hold a majority of the franchise!

Cynthia: For people who don’t think and speak Sports, political parties are more like grocery stores than teams. Everyone has a favorite but will shop elsewhere depending on what’s for supper. I love Whole Foods, for example, but if I’m making lasagna I go to Hannaford for noodles. Why pay a premium for whole wheat cardboard?

Think of the meal Democrats are offering up as a lasagna — layers of equal opportunity, public education, good government and a healthy environment. Angus King is like a private label provolone cheese. He’s baked in, not a side dish.

And anyway, keeping score of what party wins one of three statewide elections that come around every four or six years is a statistic only political jocks care about. What most people want to know is, what’s for dinner?

So what’s cooking in the Blaine House, Mike?

Mike: Hey, you asked the question on where Angus’ win should be tallied. And while the Democratic menu you’ve outlined certainly sounds nice, I’ve got to ask: where’s the beef? Ironically, Angus doesn’t count there either.

Republicans and the Blaine House are cooking steak and Maine-grown potatoes. It may not be fine dining, but it will give you the energy to get back to work. The problem is we’ve got too many chefs in the kitchen. When the attorney general (elected by 98 politicians) is thwarting the policy of the governor (elected by about 295,000 Mainers), dinner is going to be ruined.

Now, I know the cry is that the governor is pursuing illegal policies. From what I see, that determination is letting politics shade the legal analysis. With the General Assistance for illegal aliens flap, the AG’s office advised DHHS the law was far from clear. It became “clear” when the AG stopped being the top lawyer representing the state and donned a robe to become a super-judge.

It is time for a change in how we choose the AG, but I’m not sure a popular vote is the way to go. What do you think?

Cynthia: I think it’s very nice of you to speak Food with me, Mike. I’ll brush up on Sports. Bipartisanship begins with bilingualism.

And for the record, there are lots of locally grown beef- and potato-lovin’ Democrats. Aged beef, even.

But getting back to the governor and Janet Mills, he’s got to accept that being in politics is like being in any family kitchen at Thanksgiving. There are a lot of cooks. The attorney general is going to stir the pot whether she is elected by the Legislature or by the people. That’s her job.

I do support the popular election of Maine’s constitutional officers, though, because as it is now, only political insiders are eligible candidates in a secret process decided by as few as 94 legislators. Opening up these elections to the masses will prompt a robust public debate about the function of these jobs as well as create a deeper bench of candidates for higher office.

Assuming the Legislature agrees with me, do you think there will be a competition between amending the Constitution to allow public elections of constitutional officers and the rank choice voting referendum?

Mike: Do we really need more statewide elections with the profligate spending it creates? How about we make the AG a confirmed appointment? It works well at the federal level and in other states. Then, let’s give the secretary of state a new hat called “Lieutenant Governor” and they can run on a ticket, so we lessen the potential for strange policy swings should a governor leave office. The treasurer can stay as-is, since that office really doesn’t have much power. Problem solved.

But to answer your question, yes. Whenever you amend the Constitution, confusion arises. Look at the redistricting amendment in 2011 — why that vote was so close? And I’m curious how the ranked choice advocates are addressing the constitutional issues via legislation, as Maine’s Constitution clearly states a plurality wins.

Yet even if the proposal passes constitutional muster, why change? I was born in Maine and turned 30 this year. I’ve never seen a governor who wasn’t elected at least once with less than 50 percent of the vote! And if we must change, why not use a Borda count or approval voting instead? Ranked choice has its own problems — as we saw in Portland, Mayor Brennan was actually elected with less than 50 percent of the turnout. Sound familiar?

Cynthia: What I hear is the sound of people unhappy with their meals right now. A change in the menu could make politics more palatable.