Next year by this time, we can expect a complete list of declared candidates for the governor’s office. We already have the first entries among Republicans. Mary Mayhew showed up first. The personal and professional attacks against her are already underway and will accumulate steadily over the next twelve months.
The rumormongers are talking about Garrett Mason, Josh Tardy, Ken Fredette, Charlie Summers, Rick Bennett and Mike Thibodeau, but they have filed no papers and made no commitments as of this writing.
Some of those who have not made up their mind may want to see what Susan Collins decides to do. In April, she told Matthew Gagnon and Ken Altshuler on WGAN that she was giving serious thought to running, but was finding it a hard decision to make. If elected, she explained, Collins would work on issues she cares a lot about like economic development, jobs and education. “And I would try, she added, “to heal the state and bring people back together, which I think is important as well.”
Most of this is familiar and devoid of substance. All politicians, Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Conservative, Progressive and Independent care a lot about economic development, jobs and education. And even if they hated all those things, they would never say so.
It would help if she further explained her position on healing the state and bringing people back together. Some people might fear that she wants to jack taxes back up, resurrect and expand regulations, reverse the welfare reforms, increase educational funding and defend the system against reform. No doubt some people will find this healing; others will find it wounding.
It seems unlikely that a Governor Collins will heal or wound anyone. Maine’s senior senator is the nation’s model moderate. We can expect her to rally Maine’s moderate Republicans, voters and politicians with moderate courage, moderate vision, moderate leadership and moderate initiative. She will draw support from the kind of Republicans who will go anywhere and do anything in moderation. Above all, they know how to avoid the kind of extremism that could cause discomfort and get things done.
Collins donated a couple thousand dollars to my congressional campaign and allowed me to appear in the same photo, but avoided verbal support. She also helped raise money for Governor Paul LePage, but avoided specific praise. If she runs, we may hear about what she has done during her tenure in the Senate to reform regulatory screw-ups, restrain the fanaticism of the Greens, reduce federal expenditures, improve actual educational performance and restrain the growth of the welfare state. That would be interesting.
Maine’s attorney general, Janet Mills, is the most prominent and likeliest candidate for the Democrats thus far. Those whose opinions are worth anything agree that her intelligence is well about the average for the younger Democrats in the legislature. Since most of the youngsters nourish their intellects with Maine Peoples Alliance slogans, her intelligence may tell against her. She has a sense of humor, and they don’t seem to care much for that sort of thing either. But her energetic employment of the state attorney general’s powers to impede and harass Paul LePage should compensate for that. She has never displayed any hostility towards me, but I’ve heard stories suggesting she has a bad temper. I can offer no confirmation, but it’s fun to imagine her as the real Beast of the Blaine House.
A private message from Kevin Scott indicates he may consider running again as a Democrat. Adam Cote, an attorney and businessman, Adam Lee, a wealthy car dealer, and Mark Eves, a former Speaker who annoyed LePage to no great effect are also mentioned, although with no particular passion. If ranked-choice voting goes into effect next year, the number of Independent candidates may multiply so hectically that the only thing I can say with confidence is that I will not be among them.
A year from now, the current Beast of the Blaine House, Paul LePage, will still be found lurking in the governor’s mansion, browsing on the dismembered liberals, but he will have to find another lair in four months. The Democrats may celebrate the prospect of his departure, but they will begin to miss him soon enough.
No need to explain why I deposit most of Maine’s media in my “Democrats” file folder. They will miss the Beast most of all. If we placed eight years editorials and columns about the governor side-by-side, we must think of paraphrasing that passage from Hamlet, where the prince’s murdered father describes the Afterlife:
“To tell the tale of Maine’s governor,
I could stories unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine:”
Our governor has been accused of scheming to return Maine to its 1950s environmental conditions, planning to crush union movement, attacking artistic freedom, despising poetry, plotting to poison the little children, wreaking havoc on the weak, bashing teachers, selling the state to corporate interests, manufacturing a pension crisis, enriching the rich, suppressing dissent within the administration, and much, much more. Could one man contain so much evil?
The Democrats in and out of the press will have a hard time adjusting to the absence of the man who they’ve been obsessively targeting week after week for eight years. They will use President Donald Trump as a surrogate-by-association. It won’t be the same.