PARTIES - Dem Baldacci honors greatest Republican

--UPDATED 3:35 pm, Friday, February 25, with interview of Phil Harriman--
--UPDATED 9:20 am, Tuesday, February 28, with interview of Adam Mack--

With no fanfare, Maine Governor John Baldacci issued a proclamation declaring February 6 "Ronald Reagan Day" in the state of Maine, after a request from a group whose self-given task is to get "significant public landmarks" named for Reagan in every single county - that's right, county - in the US.

The only public acknowledgement of Baldacci's recognition of Reagan was in a press release not from Baldacci's office, which is profligate with announcements of nearly all of his official acts. (And the gov's proclamations are not archived online.)

Instead, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project issued a release February 17, 11 days after the state's recognition day, saying the project "commends" Baldacci's action, in honor of what would have been Reagan's 95th birthday. According to the group, 39 other governors made similar proclamations this year.

Reagan, who never visited Maine while in office, honored by a Democratic governor?

And it's not the first time. On June 11, 2004, six days after Reagan's death, Baldacci headlined a Reagan memorial ceremony at the Blaine House and proclaimed that day "Ronald Reagan Remembrance Day."

In 2005, Baldacci was one of 36 governors, including 11 Democrats, who issued proclamations in honor of Reagan's birthday, according to the Legacy Project.

The governor's Web site says the governor will issue proclamations "to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary achievements of state citizens and non-profit organizations, to honor occasions of importance and significance to the citizens of the state, and to increase public awareness of issues with the hope of improving the well-being of Maine citizens."

The site also says requests for proclamations should include a suggested wording for the proclamation, as well as background information on the subject of the proclamation.

This year's and last year's proclamations were at the request of Grover Norquist, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project in Washington, DC, according to Cashman. (Official bio of Norquist; The Nation's piece on him.)

And while the governor's Web site says out-of-state proclamation requests should have an in-state sponsor, Cashman said these two did not, saying it's "not required."

Cashman said the policy is that the governor's office will not turn down a request to issue a proclamation honor a former president's birthday, but said he is unaware of any requests for proclamations for birthdays of presidents other than Reagan.

He also said he did not view Baldacci's proclamation as an endorsement of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project's goals.

In the 1980 election, Maine voters supported Reagan by a 46-42 percent margin, and in 1984, Reagan won Maine 61-39 percent.

Former Yarmouth state senator Phil Harriman, one of two Maine representatives to the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project (the other is former Standish state rep Adam Mack) said Reagan was the first president who "connected with me," while Harriman was in college. It was particularly Reagan's principled stands on Communism and the air-traffic controllers' strike that struck Harriman.

Reagan "delivered in his words and his deeds what he believed," Harriman said.

Harriman said he appreciated Baldacci's willingness to honor Reagan, even though they are from different parties. While "the political rancor is fierce," Harriman said, "at the end of the day, there is a genuine mutual respect for anyone who raises their right hand" and takes an oath to serve the public.

Harriman did admit that the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project's goal of getting a monument to Reagan in every county in the country was unreasonable, and said he is not involved in the project, though he donated money to the Reagan Presidential Library. As for the monuments, "I don't think that's going to happen in Maine," he said.

Mack also said he thought "it's great that the governor stepped across the aisle." Mack and others, including Republican Phil Cressey, have tried to get the Maine Turnpike renamed after Reagan, "since Mount Katahdin already has a name," Mack said, adding that Cressey may try again if he wins reelection in the fall.

Mack had also spearheaded an effort to support other Reagan Legacy Project efforts, including introducing a resolution that would have encouraged Congress to rename Washington's National Airport after Reagan. That never came to the floor for a vote, Mack said, but the airport was renamed anyway.

"We've taken a step forward" by honoring Reagan, Mack said. "I hope next year [Baldacci] also sends out a press release about it."

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