State of Maine: New candidates enter the field

The slate of legislative candidates for the November election has undergone the customary post-primary reshuffling. All candidates who prevailed or were unopposed in the primary election had until July 25 to reconsider and withdraw from the ballot.

Sixteen Democrats withdrew. There are replacement candidates for all but four seats. Nine Republicans withdrew; there are seven replacement candidates. In those districts where a candidate withdrew and there is no replacement, the lucky opponent from the other party is now unopposed unless there is an independent candidate.

Why go through all the rigamarole of qualifying and filing for office only to withdraw a few weeks later? Sometimes life intervenes. An illness, an unexpected need to relocate out of the district, a family situation, or, sadly, the death of a candidate are all reasons to withdraw. There are also withdrawals of “placeholder” candidates who took one for the team and agreed to become a candidate while the party scrambled to find a viable candidate for the long haul.

This maneuver has sometimes backfired and a placeholder candidate who, in the absence of anyone else willing to take on the election, is stuck on the ballot. A political novice who suffers this fate may find him- or herself on the road to Augusta for the following two years, musing aloud out the car window that “they promised they’d replace me!”

In Hancock County, Democrat Barbara Reeve of Ellsworth withdrew from the House District 13 race and was replaced by J. Mark Worth, also of Ellsworth. Pam Person, a Democrat from Orland, left the House District 17 race and was replaced by Ronald Russell of Verona Island. According to state law, it is “a political committee” that gets to select the replacement candidate.

Since these candidates withdrew by the statutory deadline, more than 70 days before the general election, it is the names of the replacement candidates that will appear on the general election ballot.

Elsewhere on the political scene, the ghost of governors past reappeared, clanking his chains. The “kinder and gentler,” “LePage 2.0” gubernatorial candidate reverted to form as the volatile governor we remember from the pre-Janet Mills days, threatening on tape to “deck” a fellow filming him at a northern Maine festival. “Six feet away or I’m going to deck you,” said the former governor, and he wasn’t talking social distancing. “Come into my space, you’re going down.”

Mind you, these party operatives who track candidates, close on their heels and running video cameras nonstop in the hopes of catching a candidate in an unguarded moment that can be turned into negative advertising fodder, are a pain in the proverbial. It is a low form of “oppo” research that is a poor substitute for an effort to sell a candidacy based on the quality and policy of a candidate.

The Republican defense to candidate LePage returning to the pugilism he said he had put behind him? “He’s had a tough life.” Yes. Yes, he has. Paul LePage is a politician with a made-for-TV backstory of poverty and neglect, a childhood that had him on the streets at 11 years old, and mentors who gave him a hand up to help him get through college and into a successful business career at an iconic Maine retail store.

But admiration for a person who overcame an extraordinarily difficult beginning in life can be diminished by an inability to control himself when provoked. Yes, voters can be fans of the feisty in their candidates, but outrage in a candidate is best saved for the truly outrageous – injustice, violence, poverty.

Those hapless “trackers” are more a mosquito-level annoyance that anyone aspiring to a political career must learn to ignore. The parties shouldn’t use them, and they certainly shouldn’t dignify them with the title of “research associate,” as Democratic spokesperson Misha Linnehan did in the current instance. But a governor needs to be able to tolerate lesser aggravations without threatening bodily harm. We have bigger fish to fry.

And so, into the closing days of summer we go. The start of the school year, in most places before Labor Day, will mostly blot out the little people from the tourist scene, except for weekends. With them goes the buzz of kid energy, replaced by the more sedate pace of adults-only travelers.

We return to the street scene where everyone strolls, or trudges, or shuffles. No leaping into the air, no extravagant swinging of arms, no tossing of water bottles high into the air. No wailing over dropped ice cream cones, no exuberant hugs for passing dogs, no tiny “good mornings” from miniature passersby.

The “season” is by no means over, but everything from the feel of the air, the afternoon shadows and the disappearance of school kids marks a difference.


Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.


Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.