The Universal Notebook: Primary post-mortem: Trouble ahead

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A great deal can happen between now and Nov. 6, but I have a sick feeling that the gubernatorial election may have been determined at the June 12 primary.

Republicans handed Shawn Moody a landslide, while Democrats gave Janet Mills a narrow victory after a tortuous week of wading through the new ranked-choice voting system.

A few things are clear as a result of the primaries and none of them are good.

First, RCV is a waste of time. It was cynical to be asked to vote RCV up or down while we were using it for the first time, but now that we have seen it in action, we can probably safely repeal it. It did not, as promised, cut down on negative campaigning, create greater confidence in a majority winner, or save us from another Paul LePage. It also took way too long to get a result.

Ideally, we should know the winners of an election before we go to bed on Election Day. Barring that, the next morning will do. But a week? Forget it. If RCV comes up for a vote again, I’ll vote no.

Second, while it pains me greatly to say so, I am afraid we Democrats may have blown it again. We tend to elect the next man or woman up, rewarding party loyalty and years of public service with a chance at major office. But the electorate does not seem to want highly qualified veteran public servants, and that’s who we have nominated in AG Janet Mills. I support her, I hope she wins, and I sure hope I’m wrong, but I greatly fear she may suffer the same fate as Hillary Clinton. May the best woman win.

The bloody voters, in all their inscrutability, just seem to want fresh meat, the less qualified the better. That why I believe Adam Cote might have been the smart choice for Democrats. Cote had the best chance of defeating Shawn Moody. Like Moody, he’d never been elected to statewide office, like Moody he’d only recently enrolled in his party, plus he’s smarter than Moody, he’s a combat veteran, and he would have had broad appeal to independents and moderate Republicans.

Third, come November, the independent also-rans may well determine the outcome of the race. Unless Janet Mills runs a fantastic campaign and Democrats support her 100 percent – meaning no defections to Alan Caron or Terry Hayes – Moody will win. He’s Mr. Outsider versus Ms. Insider.

If RCV is in place for the November election, I suppose there’s a chance it might make a half dozen people feel better about the eventual outcome, assuming Mills would be the second choice of all Caron and Hayes voters, but it won’t be. It’s Mills and Moody head to head, with Caron and Hayes as the spoilers.

Caron, who has promised to drop out if it becomes clear by October that he can’t win, is trying to position himself to become the go-to guy if Mills falters, as Susan Collins did in 1994, when Republicans flocked to Angus King, and as Libby Mitchell did in 2010 and Mike Michaud did in 2014. Democrats, however, just couldn’t get their acts together at the last minute to support Eliot Cutler, which is why we have suffered eight years of Paul LePage. This race could come down to the wire. Whatever you do, do not vote early.

If we are in for four years of LePage Light, we can only hope that Shawn Moody is not as mean as his mentor. Moody is not his own man. He has no ideas and no idea what he thinks. He just thinks he wants to be governor and he thinks he can accomplish that by being LePage 3.0.

The LePage Gang rewarded the loyalty of legislative waterboy Ken Fredette and human services harpy Mary Mayhew by throwing them under the bus and backing a body shop mechanic. LePage, GOP operative Brent Littlefield and the American Legislative Exchange Council (which is where LePage got all his lousy ideas) will be telling him what to do and say. So, ironically, Mr. Outsider promises to be more of the same.

What the June 12 primary set up for us on Nov. 6 is an unqualified man versus a highly qualified woman, a LePage wannabe versus one of the few people in Augusta who has stood up to LePage, a Republican puppet versus a Democratic attorney general, a ventriloquist’s dummy versus a veteran political leader.

My worry is that voters in Maine and America in recent years have shown a preference for dummies.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.