Supporting the public safety commissioner
I want to take a moment to address a topic that is near and dear to many people’s hearts — gun rights. Let me be clear: I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As a veteran, a former State Attorney General and U.S. citizen, the Constitution is a document I take very seriously. I have literally fought to defend it, first in the military and later in the courts. The Constitution says that you shall have the right “to keep and bear arms.” You can trust me when I say that I won’t support any legislation that would negatively impact the Second Amendment. The government shouldn’t interfere with the rights of law-abiding citizens like you and me.
Earlier this month, I voted to confirm former Police Chief Michael J. Sauschuck to the post of Maine’s commissioner of public safety. This is a man who has spent more than three decades protecting and defending the lives of Mainers. First, he served our country in the U.S. Marine Corps. Then, he came home, put on a different uniform, and served our communities and state in the police force. In Portland, he successfully ran the largest municipal police department in the state with authority over more than 200 personnel and a $16.6 million budget.
However, this is also a man who has been criticized — rightly so, in my opinion — for some of his personal statements and positions on guns. While I do not agree with his past statement and position, I wanted to explain why I chose to support his appointment to this role. Part of it is because I know he cannot change Maine gun laws in this role.
My decision to support Chief Sauschuck has to do with both the scope of the roles and responsibilities of the public safety commissioner, and his impressive qualifications. To begin with, it’s important to understand that this position makes Chief Sauschuck a member of government bureaucracy and not an elected official. As a result, he does not have the ability, power or will of the people to change Maine gun laws. This is important.
While he served as chief of police for the city of Portland, he supported a ballot referendum that would expand background checks on private gun sales among taking other controversial positions. At that time, he was representing the views and concerns of the city of Portland. As public safety commissioner, Chief Sauschuck must now represent and protect the safety and concerns of the entire state. As someone who grew up in rural Franklin County, Chief Sauschuck has made it clear that he understands the values of all Mainers — rural and nonrural — and will bring those values to the job.
When deciding whether to support a nominee for commissioner — a person who will run an entire department of state government — I look for number specific things: What are their qualifications for the role? What is their work history, and how will it make them successful? Can they manage the responsibility of chairing the department? Most importantly, will their personal feelings influence policy and do I respect them?
These are all questions I kept in mind during Chief Sauschuck’s confirmation hearing while listening to testimony in support of and against his nomination. I carefully reviewed his qualifications, statements and testimonial from his colleagues. I watched him listen to those who spoke out against his nomination with great reverence and respect as he took their concerns to heart. With this information in mind, I decided that Chief Sauschuck’s qualifications, personal character, and commitment to adhering to the law and keeping Maine safe showed that he was a great candidate for the job. And I did this with the confidence that your right to bear arms will not be harmed. The Legislature, myself included, and the Maine Constitution simply won’t allow for it.
My central priorities in the Legislature remain to protect our families and communities, preserve our County values, and look out for the best interests of my constituents amid all the chaos in Augusta.