The Maine Heritage Policy Center on Tuesday honored Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of state's Department of Health and Human Services, during its "Freedom and Opportunity Luncheon" in Portland.
The conservative think-tank's "Freedom and Opportunity Award" is given annually to "the Maine citizen who has best demonstrated a core commitment to the principles of Freedom and Opportunity that serve to improve the economic well-being in this great state," the group said in its news release.
In early July, my colleague Steve Mistler reported that Mayhew is rumored to be a future Republican candidate for governor, likely in 2018. That might seem unlikely for a former Democratic political aide, or for the head of a state agency that has long been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy. But there are some subtle signs, including Gov. Paul LePage calling Mayhew "a superstar" and bringing her to public appearances unrelated to her current job.
This award from the MHPC will do little to tamp down that speculation, since Republican Paul LePage won the award in 2007 -- three years before being elected governor.
Mayhew's tenure at the DHHS has been filled with controversies and reforms.
Controversies include: Officials at the state Center for Disease Control being accused of directing a staffer to shred documents; a MaineCare rides provider leaving many patients on the curb waiting for rides to medical appointments, while receiving additional payments, despite its poor performance; and the state cancelling its contract with welfare consultant Gary Alexander after it was learned portions of his work were plagiarized.