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End of an Era in the Maine Legislature: John Martin Ousted
11/07/2012   Reported By: Jay Field

Election night marked the end of an era in Maine politics, with the surprise defeat of state Rep. John Martin. The Eagle Lake Democrat was one of the longest-serving state lawmakers in the nation. He lost his bid for re-election to Mike Nadeau, a Republican businessman from Fort Kent. Martin blamed his loss on outside money, which was used in the campaign in violation of Maine election law.  As Jay Field reports, Martin will be remembered for his mastery of legislative rules, his willingness to use them to advance his political agenda - and a scandal that led Maine to embrace term limits for state lawmakers.

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The End of an Era in the Maine Legislature: John
Originally Aired: 11/7/2012 5:30 PM
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3:06

Martin was first elected to the Maine House in 1964. By 1992, he'd already served as speaker for almost two decades, when a top aide got in trouble for tampering with ballots during that year's elections.

Two years later, supporters of term limits used Martin's ties to the scandal - and his decades as a fixture in Augusta - to convice voters to pass a referedum limiting state lawmakers to four consecutive two-year stints in office.

Martin opposed term limits then, and still does. "Frankly, I always believed that it was a bad thing for Maine," he says. "My position has always been that if voters want to get rid of someone, they have the election process that they can do that."

And now, Martin notes ironically, voters have used that process to get rid of him. Martin accepts the outcome, he says. But he's not happy about the influx of money from outside his Aroostook County district that, he says, led to his defeat.

"At least a couple mailings a week, saying what my position was - some of it actual lies," Martin says. "In addition, some of the laws were broken, by the opposition."

Both Martin's candidacy and his opponent's were publicly-funded under the Maine Clean Election Act, which prohibits outside contributions. On Monday, the Maine Ethics Commission ruled that Republican Mike Nadeau violated state election law, when the campaign's treasurer spent money on the race via an outside group.

But Nadeau says the law is confusing, and any mistake his campaign made was unintentional.

"When they call me and talk to me, the Ethics Commission, they call it ethics rules. And another moment, they call it ethics laws.  And I say to them, 'Which one is it?'" Nadeau says. "With ethics rules, I don't need to have an attorney present. I can answer my own questions. But if we're starting to deal with laws, well then, I'd really like to have representation because this is new to me."

Wherever the truth lies, Martin says he has no plans to challenge the outcome of the race. He says it's time for someone else to step forward and represent northern Maine.

"John Martin - he knew the rules better than just about anybody else," says Mal Leary, reporter and editor with the Capitol News Service.  Leary, who has covered Martin's career in Augusta, says Martin used this institutional knowledge of  procedures in the State House to put his mark on every state budget since the mid-1970s.

"Budgets are policy. Budgets are the things that determine what are the important things for the state of Maine," Leary says. "He's been intimately involved in those, all along, using his knowledge of the rules, to advocate for those issues he believed in."

Martin says he's most proud of the environmental agenda he's pushed in Augusta, including the creation of the Allagash Wildeness Waterway. And he also points to the ongoing improvements to Route 11 in the County as a major achievement.

When he leaves the Legislature, Martin will continue imparting some of his wisdom and tricks of the trade to his students at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, where he's an assistant professor of political science.

 

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