If you’ve been harboring the fond hope that the new year marked a change for the better, Waldo County Republicans will set you straight. They passed a resolution in December stating that Republicans Kevin Raye and Roger Katz “shall be censored and shall be prohibited/banned from running for any civil or public office as a committee member or official of the Maine Republican Party.”
Can they do that? If someone is registered in the party and qualifies for the ballot, it is hard to turn up anything in law to permit such a ban. They can do their level best to make it difficult to win, though. That’s their right. But to actually pass a resolution banning party members from running? It’s ludicrous. It’s appalling. It’s anti-Republican. And it’s Waldo County, where neither of these men live.
This is what happens when you dare to say what you think about your party’s candidates in an election. Kevin! Roger! What were you thinking? You are Republicans, right? So that means you can always, only, ever vote for Republicans!
Kevin Raye is all Maine, all the time. He was born in Eastport and lives in Perry, helping to run a mustard mill that has been in his family since 1900. He went to Bates College and worked for Olympia Snowe for almost two decades. For six years, he was her chief of staff. He served in the Maine Senate for eight years.
As Senate president for one of those terms, he was a steady hand, not into drama. Though not one to back down on his principles, he was always ready to listen. In the aftermath of the Waldo County action, Mainers on both sides of the aisle have reaffirmed their respect for Raye.
Roger Katz was born in Augusta and served as the city’s mayor from 2006 to 2010. He was then elected to the Maine Senate, where he served eight years. Katz was frank about his political opinions, tangling more than once with Governor Paul LePage, who referred to Katz as “my enemy.” Katz was more diplomatic, saying he was in sync with LePage on “most issues” and describing some of their disagreements as a result of the former governor’s “unfortunate tone.”
Katz’s public stances led to both conflict and admiration within his caucus but through it all he had strong backing in his district. A statement he made in a 2015 interview now seems prescient. “Good public policy comes from vigorous, respectful debate. If we discourage that, we do so at our own peril.”
Mind you, neither Katz nor Raye has been making public noises about running for office, but, just in case, the Waldo County GOP has taken pre-emptive action. The party is seeking not just to limit debate but to keep them out of office altogether. This happens to be the party that has recently cited personal freedom and constitutional rights in their fight against masks, vaccinations and mail-in ballots. When it comes to disagreeing with party orthodoxy, freedom can take a hike.
The Republican reckoning has arrived. We have seen at the federal level that there is little stomach to do anything other than that which will appease He Who Shall Be Nameless. Wear a mask on the House floor that says, “Trump won”? Nothing. Support the murder of public officials? Crickets.
Now, in Maine, an official party committee has made it clear that if you hold any opinions other than theirs you may not run for office. It’s extraordinary. Once upon a time, Mainers did not care to have other people telling them what to think. We’ll soon find out if that still holds.
The website for the Waldo County Republicans does not mention their recent action. The site is trying to recruit Republicans to run for office, calling it a “great experience.” Yep. Just remember that any violation of Republican rules of purity could get you banned.
It would be helpful if the Waldo County Republicans posted on their website the list of Republicans on the banned list so voters don’t have to do any more thinking than necessary.
In the meantime, Kevin Raye and Roger Katz are left shaking their heads. Concerned about the growing number of disenchanted Republicans, Raye said in a news interview that although he hasn’t left the party he is “still assessing where the best place will be for those of us with centrist and center-right views to find a comfortable political home.” Roger Katz says people are asking: “Is this our party anymore?”
Rather than trying to persuade voters on the merits of candidates, the Waldo County Republican Committee will provide them with a list of candidates the party deems acceptable. Others need not apply.
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.