Short Relief: Abbott is Maine GOP's best bet

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Republicans have several good candidates to be their nominee for governor this year, including businessmen Matt Jacobson, Les Otten and Bruce Poliquin, as well as educator Bill Beardsley and politicians Paul LePage and Peter Mills. Each is appealing in his way, and all are preferable to the other parties’ alternatives.

My favorite is Steve Abbott because I believe that he can win the general election and be a great Maine governor. That’s because Abbott is smart, principled, politically savvy, a hard worker and a leader.

Abbott is deeply rooted in Maine. He grew up in Orono, attend to Harvard University, where he majored in history, and got his law degree from the University of Maine. Along the way, he led his high school athletic teams to undefeated seasons and was elected captain of the Harvard football team.

After law school, Abbott worked at a firm for a while but left the practice of law to pursue his interest in politics. He was U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ chief of staff for 13 years until he resigned to run for governor in January.

Working for Collins, Abbott managed a statewide organization that raised significant amounts of money and won several highly competitive, nationally targeted races against formidable opponents. Then, with Abbott’s help, the Collins organization served the people of Maine in many ways, including by helping constituents with whatever problems they might have had with the federal government.

He was a trusted adviser to one of the most admired and pivotal members of the Senate. In that role, he helped Collins navigate a sensible and principled course through some of the challenging issues of our time.

Abbott understands the serious challenges that Maine faces, has a long-term plan to address them, the strength of character to pursue what needs to be done even though it may be painful in the short run, and an easy-going manner that will help us through the unavoidable, difficult times ahead.

His plan begins with reshaping and redirecting our state government. It is too big and too expensive relative to our private sector. It is geared toward providing people with benefits instead of jobs. We need to strike a more healthy balance between public and private. Abbott will conduct a comprehensive audit to identify unproductive government programs for elimination, like the failed Dirigo Health Plan. He wants a line-item veto so that he can take responsibility for making the cuts himself.

Abbott wants to honestly confront problems few have been willing to talk about – like our state pension system, which is underfunded by several billion dollars. He would convert it to a 401k-style plan in phases. Employees close to retirement could stick with the current plan. Younger employees would have the choice of converting to the new plan or sticking with the old one at the risk that it will not have adequate resources to fund their benefits. New hires would get the new plan.

He recognizes that our infrastructure, bridges and roads, have been woefully neglected for years. Abbott will repair and rebuild that infrastructure and pave the way for people to prosper from their own labor.

Abbott has the energy and the dedication that it will take to solve these problems. He has been traveling the state in order to bring his message directly to the people who will make the decision in June and November.

The Democrats have created and presided over a government that is bloated with people and programs and that exerts a drag on the private sector. Maine has only been able to avoid a crisis because of infusions of federal money. Several of those who are vying to be the Democratic nominee are committed to more of the same.

In contrast, Abbott can lead our state to a brighter future.

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Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.