Mary Mayhew is running on a record of child poverty and hunger

Mary Mayhew is running on a record of child poverty and hunger

Back in April, I wrote a piece about the alarming explosion of childhood poverty in Maine. The analysis noted that while as many as one in three children in the state are slipping into poverty, the LePage administration actively turned away over $2 billion in federal funds that would have been earmarked to alleviate that crisis. Truly, it was a governing strategy as mean as it was shortsighted.

This week, the architect of that heartless and and outrageous policy announced that she is running for governor.

Mary Mayhew, who served as Gov. LePage’s director at DHHS since 2011 until she resigned late last month in anticipation of the announcement for her candidacy, oversaw a health and human services agency  whose mismanagement and propensity for scandal was matched only by its callousness as it diverted, rejected, or withheld federal funds aimed at reducing poverty and childhood hunger.

Her greatest hits at the agency include mismanaging the Riverview Psychiatric Center so spectacularly that it lost—and has yet to regain— its federal certification, fighting tooth and nail against a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid that would have covered over 70,000 uninsured people, and illegally redirecting $13 million in TANF funds to other programs while amassing over $150 million in unspent funds that could have provided immediate relief to struggling Maine families. In short, Mayhew has used her six years in charge of the state’s largest agency to make the lives tens of thousands of Mainers demonstrably worse while on a crusade to make government work as badly as conservatives imagine it does.

For her part, Mayhew seems to be signalling that these atrocities are going to form the backbone of her pitch to Republicans and the Maine people at large, launching a preemptive attack on oft-rumored potential gubernatorial candidate and patron saint of half-hearted political gestures, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, on the grounds that this week Collins came out in characteristically tepid support of a watered-down version of Medicaid expansion. In posturing toward the far right of the Republican base, Mayhew is not only leaning into the legacy of the LePage administration, she is reiterating that she was a key figure in the creation and execution of LePage’s cold-hearted economic agenda. Her careless disdain for the vulnerable families that she was charged with helping for the last six years is a feature, not a bug, in her pitch to voters.

Whether the 2018 elections will reward such a candidate remains to be seen, but the fact that Mayhew thinks she has a winning strategy in touting a record so abysmal is a testament to what will be at stake as voters go to the voting booth next year. Either way, it’s going to be a long 18 months for those who care about whether a child in Androscoggin or Somerset county is going to sleep hungry.

Mayhew campaign photo.

About author

Grady Burns
Grady Burns 36 posts

Grady Burns is an activist on issues involving young Mainers. He serves on the Auburn City Council and is president of the Maine Young Democrats.

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