It's obvious, and certainly not a surprise, that Republican Gov. Paul LePage, his state communications staff and his reelection campaign are going to use the Veterans Administration waiting list scandal to batter U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the Democrat attempting to unseat the governor in November.
Even on Thursday, when Michaud unveiled his plan to create an Office of Inspector General to oversee the controversy-prone Department of Health and Human Services, the governor's reelection campaign seized a glaring opportunity for a nifty rhetorical pivot. After all, it was the U.S. Office of Inspector General that helped uncover the VA scandal while Michaud was on the congressional veterans committee (He's now the ranking Democrat).
While many Republicans -- and certainly independent candidate Eliot Cutler -- believe that the VA scandal is fair game, not all support some of the tactics deployed in the attack. State Rep. Corey Wilson, R-Augusta, is one of them. Wilson, a combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq and Kuwait with the U.S. Marine Corps, posted on his Facebook Thursday that LePage's request to investigate the VA Togus Medical Center "has political stench all over it."
"While I want to ensure the VA is held accountable, this is not the way to accomplish it," he wrote. "Even if they were given access, they would have no clue where to begin. #politicalgames"
In addition to his objection to the political maneuvering, Wilson's post implied a lack of confidence in state investigators. If LePage follows the lead of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, those investigators would be from the Department of Health and Human Services .
Wilson's post touched off a spirited, but mostly civil debate.
"I disagree, many vets across the US have been harmed by mismanagement of the VA and the 5 governors who signed the letter deserve to get to the bottom of it to better assist those vets who the VA has failed," Assistant House leader Rep. Alex Willette, R-Mapleton, responded.
Wilson isn't seeking reelection this year. He's taking a job with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. During his term he's been a strong advocate for veterans. He's supported LePage on a number of issues, taking the lead on a contentious military recruiters bill in 2013. He's also not afraid to oppose LePage on high-profile issues.
Wilson was one of several Republicans who supported the expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. LePage made defeating Medicaid expansion a priority over the past session.