It’d be easy to explain Seth Carey’s victory in the June 12 Republican primary for district attorney in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties by attributing it to votes cast by stupid people.
So, yeah, I’m gonna do that. Carey won by a sizable margin because lots of GOP voters are morons.
That said, there were other factors that came into play. But before I get to those, here’s some background for those unfamiliar with Carey, such as the people who voted for him.
Seth began his legal career a decade ago in Rumford, not coincidentally one of the few towns to vote overwhelmingly against him in the primary. Since then, he’s been suspended from practicing law four times for an assortment of transgressions. In one of those cases, a judge told investigators there was “a fair piece of real estate between the lowest end of competence and (Carey’s) performance.” In another, a hearing officer chastised Carey for “a steady flow of bizarre pleadings and pretrial motions that portrayed a profound disrespect of due process.”
In addition to being sanctioned for weird and incompetent behavior, Carey’s law license is currently suspended because of allegations he committed unlawful sexual conduct and assault on one of his clients. In imposing the sanction, the judge wrote, “Carey’s misconduct is sufficiently serious to constitute a threat to clients, to the public and to the administration of justice.”
And most recently, Auburn police issued no-trespassing paperwork against Carey after he tried to post campaign signs on private property without permission.
When Carey isn’t barred from legal work, he still generates controversy. In 2016, he sued the NFL to overturn “Deflategate” penalties imposed on the New England Patriots. According to his court filing, fans of the team had been subjected to “embarrassment, ridicule and depression due to the rest of the country who is jealous of the Patriots ‘piling on’ and criticize the Patriots and their fans for being ‘cheaters.’”
The suit was thrown out of court.
Also in 2016, Carey filed suit on behalf of cat caretakers in Dixfield claiming that funds from a bequest by a deceased resident for the care of abandoned felines were being misused. His clients soon decided they wanted Carey removed from the case, but he refused to quit until a judge gave him the boot. Even then, he tried unsuccessfully to get re-involved by forming his own nonprofit organization called Friends of Dixfield Cats. That didn’t work, either.
Any voter familiar with even a small part of this history ought to have concluded that while Carey might be a perfect fit for a top administrative post at the scandal-ridden federal Environmental Protection Agency, he’s utterly unqualified to be a district attorney.
So, how did he win the Republican primary with over 60 percent of the vote?
It wasn’t about money. Carey spent about $200, mostly on hand-painted signs that read, “Build. That. Wall.”
For the record, D.A.s aren’t authorized to build walls, but I doubt most voters realized that. And the town of Mexico is in Carey’s prosecutorial district. Blocking it off from the rest of the state might have had some appeal.
Carey’s shortcomings as a lawyer and human being got plenty of coverage in the local press. But as one veteran of many GOP campaigns noted, “Republicans hate the media. They ignore facts as fake news.”
It’s also possible the public didn’t connect the bad publicity with the name on the ballot, where Seth was listed as “S. Thomas Carey.” Seth’s father is an attorney named Thomas Carey, and inattentive people may have thought they were voting for the dad.
Finally, there appears to have been some resentment toward Carey’s opponent, Alex Willette. On paper, Willette looked like a solid candidate: former legislator, military veteran, assistant D.A. in Sagadahoc County. But as one Republican activist told me, “Alex is a carpetbagger. He moved into Androscoggin County just to run for the D.A. slot. He’s just barely out of law school.”
Regardless of how he won the primary, Carey is unlikely ever to serve as D.A. He faces incumbent Democrat Andrew Robinson in the fall election in a district that traditionally favors Dems. Even in the unlikely event he prevails in November, he couldn’t be sworn in unless he’s licensed to practice law, which he isn’t at the moment. He faces a hearing before a justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court later this summer at which Carey claims he’ll be reinstated. But there’s also a distinct possibility he’ll be disbarred.
The voters may yet be spared the consequences of their stupidity.
Got a worse candidate? Let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.