Politics & Other Mistakes: Here come the bugs

6 mins read

I’m not one of those people who assumes that just because somebody casually mentions they’re thinking about running for governor of Maine in 2010, that they should be restrained, subjected to electro-shock therapy and deported to someplace where they can’t do any harm.

North Korea, maybe. Or Miami.

Just kidding about the second one. Even I’m not that cruel.

Al Diamon

As incumbent Democratic Gov. John Baldacci gets fitted for webbed feet, a large yellow bill, waterproof wings and a crutch, I welcome his potential replacements, who are beginning to emerge from the primordial slime of politics at the larval level.

With the Blaine House race wide open in ’10, the candidates will be as numerous as ticks on a moose. Over the next two years, these proto-pols will be exploring their metamorphosed forms, testing their new wings and making tentative blood-sucking noises through their proboscises.

So slap on the DEET, because here comes a rundown (in more than one sense of the word) of some of the likely – and unlikely – contenders, starting with the Democrats.

Outgoing Attorney General Steven Rowe of Portland (disclaimer: my wife is an assistant attorney general) is smart, experienced (in addition to his eight years as AG, he’s a former speaker of the Maine House and a retired U.S. Army captain), a competent manager and severely charisma-impaired. He’s likeable – if you can stay awake.

Major drawback: In 2007, his wife, Amanda Rowe, was a leading advocate for the Portland School Committee’s controversial decision to allow some middle-school students to obtain birth control without parental consent. Expect the religious right to focus on that issue to the exclusion of all others. Rowe will have to be alert to keep the wackos from defining his candidacy as being about letting kids having sex.

John Richardson of Brunswick is also a lawyer, a former House speaker and a person who tends to cause attention deficits whenever he opens his mouth. He currently serves as Baldacci’s economic development commissioner, which may not be such a great platform for campaigning, at a time when development has pretty much ground to a halt. Richardson devoted a lot of his legal career to representing unions and can count on strong support from organized labor.

Major drawback: During the 2006 gubernatorial race, Richardson held a loopy press conference attacking Republican nominee Chandler Woodcock for a bunch of stuff that made no sense. Once he declares his candidacy, expect that video to show up on YouTube.

Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan also has an impressive resume – legislator, congressional candidate who nearly knocked off Olympia Snowe, New England director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He may give up a little to Rowe and Richardson in the intellect department, but he’s a far more engaging campaigner.

Major drawback: Earlier this year, McGowan was investigated by the feds for allegedly helping friends hunt moose illegally by spotting the beasts from a plane. He was cleared, but that won’t matter to the rumor mill.

Term-limited state Senate President Beth Edmonds of Freeport was effective enough to get some business done in a chamber nearly equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Edmonds has deep roots in her party’s left wing, particularly among social-service types, who can be influential in a Dem primary. As a campaigner, she has a hard time controlling her inherent wonkiness.

Major drawback: Edmonds has never met a tax increase she didn’t like. Given the mood of the electorate, that position is less likely to win her the governorship and more likely to get her tarred and feathered.

Libby Mitchell of Vassalboro is soon to be the new Senate president. If Mitchell’s tenure as House speaker is any indication, things will be a lot more partisan and a lot less pleasant for the GOP under her rule. She has trouble holding her temper, but none holding a grudge.

Major drawback: Mitchell has twice run for major office – the U.S. Senate in 1984 and Congress in 1990 – without ever connecting with any voter outside the hardcore Democratic base. That makes her the candidate the Republicans would most like to see nominated.

Well, except for Tom Allen. The soon-to-be-ex-1st District congressman got slaughtered in the 2008 U.S. Senate race. That lingering odor of defeat indicates he’s past his best-used-by date.

Major drawback: In a popularity contest in northern Maine, Allen couldn’t beat Lyme disease.

Mike Michaud just won his fourth term representing the 2nd District by numbers that make it look like he ran against … well, Tom Allen. But in southern Maine, Michaud’s image ranges from dormant to doofus.

Major drawback: Although he dodges questions about reproductive rights, he had a pro-life voting record in the Maine Legislature. In a Democratic primary, that makes him a post-natal abortion.

Next week, the Republicans and independents.

Crush my ego like a bug by neglecting to e-mail aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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