Maine Democrats need to find some really lousy candidates for major offices. Otherwise, the Dems could end up helping to elect Republicans like Paul LePage to the U.S. Senate and Bruce Poliquin to the governorship in 2018.
Fortunately, the donkey party is loaded with lame contenders. But before I pick through that sludge pile, let me explain why Democrats need to field a slate of hopeless cases in the next election.
If Gov. LePage follows up on his threat to run against independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, the guv would be a clear underdog. LePage’s favorability rating has never nudged much above 40 percent, while King’s always sits comfortably in the mid-60s. In a two-person contest, LePage would lose in a landslide.
Of course, the 2018 contest won’t be limited to two people. The Green Independent Party may field a feeble candidate who’ll draw off 3 or 4 percentage points from King. The Libertarian Party might offer a Gary Johnson clone, who’ll take two votes from the sitting senator for every one he or she costs LePage. Add in a Democrat of unassailable mediocrity, and another 15 percent of King’s lead evaporates.
Suddenly, the race is a dead heat, and the enthusiasm of LePage’s deplorable supporters would give him a distinct edge over the laidback elitists who favor King.
Likewise in the next gubernatorial race. GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is seriously considering a bid for the Blaine House, but doesn’t want to get bogged down in an ugly primary in which her refusal to support Donald Trump’s presidential bid becomes a major issue. To avoid that, Collins is said to be thinking of dropping her Republican affiliation to run as an independent.
If that happened, there’s little doubt Poliquin, currently the congressman from the state’s 2nd District, would seek the GOP nomination. In the primary, he’d be a clear frontrunner over state Senate President Mike Thibodeau, state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason or Health and Human Services commissioner Mary Mayhew, all of whom have expressed interest in the office.
Of course, Collins would clobber Poliquin or any of the others in a nice, clean head-to-head fight. But, as with the Senate race, it won’t be that simple. The Greens and Libs could cloud the picture, and the Democrats, who haven’t won a Senate seat in Maine since shortly after the invention of the TV remote control, aren’t about to let such an opportunity slide by uncontested. What should be an easy win for Collins would suddenly become problematic, even if the Dem nominee drew something less than 20 percent of the vote.
Assuming the vast majority of Democrats would prefer to surrender these offices to Collins and King rather than risk them falling to Poliquin and LePage, the only solution is to offer up nominees so utterly unelectable as to guarantee they can’t play the spoiler. Those Dem voters will be pleased to learn their party’s bench is deep with candidates of surpassing shallowness.
Keeping in mind that Democrats need not just nominees who can’t win, but ones who can’t even contend, the party should immediately reject Attorney General Janet Mills, whose gubernatorial ambitions might attract support from middle-of-the-road independents. Mills’ candidacy would cut into the very bloc Collins must hold to beat Poliquin.
Instead, the Dems must turn to a proven nonstarter. While it would be tempting to consider unsuccessful 2014 nominee Mike Michaud, he’d likely be just strong enough to hand victory to the GOP. Better to go with losers waiting to be proven like House Speaker Mark Eves, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap or soon-to-be-ex-state Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, all of whom have more ambition than common sense, and none of whom would attract enough supporters north of Augusta to fill the cast of an amateur production of “The Last Hurrah.”
For Senate, there’s Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, perennial congressional candidate Emily Cain, Judge of Probate (and previous loser for governor and senator) Libby Mitchell, and anybody named Baldacci (except maybe the one who writes those thrillers).
And let’s not forget failed 2012 Senate nominee Cynthia Dill, who last I checked was writing a political column for a newspaper.
Can’t get much lamer than that.
Got a better (by which I mean worse) choice? Email me at email@example.com.