Bad job blues

 Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  July 18, 2013

Bruce Poliquin, former state treasurer and unsuccessful candidate for governor and U.S. senator, has decided he doesn’t want to be the new chairman of the Maine Republican Party.
Smart move.

(Please note the preceding paragraph marks the first time I’ve ever written anything even vaguely complimentary about Poliquin. I doubt it’ll happen again.)

One good reason for Bruce to pass on the chairmanship is that the mere possibility filled my inbox with unflattering one-liners. A sampling:

“Poliquin will really help a Republican Party in dire need of obnoxious little twerps with lots of money and no clue.”

“Gov. Paul LePage apparently wants a party chair who’s less skilled at politics than he is.”

“Everyone in the 2nd District [where Poliquin is considering a bid for Congress] will be grateful.”

Some of this stuff is cruel, and I’ll have no part of it — other than reprinting it here. The rest seems reasonably accurate.

It should be noted that these comments all came from Republicans. Democrats were somewhat less coherent: “Hoo hoo ha ha hee hee (gasping sound) hoo hee hee.”

The second reason Poliquin should shy away is that GOP chairmen have traditionally had a remarkably short shelf life. As a platform for reaching higher office, it’s only slightly more effective than being Aaron Hernandez’s publicist.

This explains why the Maine GOP has often found itself desperately seeking someone to lead it out of the morass it frequently insists on jumping into. Over the years, some ambitious politicians have accepted the job, allowing their lust for power to overcome their common sense.

In 1988, the GOP won so few legislative races that there was talk of starting a breeding program to save the endangered species. The party selected former state Representative Tom Murphy of Kennebunk as its chair, mostly because he’d developed that year’s campaign strategy (motto: Once More Into The Morass). Murphy quit after barely six months, replaced by state Representative Philip Jackson of Harrison, whose first order of business was to try to convince then-state Senator John Baldacci of Bangor to switch parties and join the Republicans.

To the great relief of subsequent generations of GOPers, Jackson was unsuccessful.

He did, however, encourage hordes of ultra-conservatives to become active in the party. The moderate establishment squashed most of their efforts, in the process created a rift among Republicans that persists to this day.

In 1990, Jackson decided that was a job well done and called it quits. He was succeeded by middle-of-the-roader Ted O’Meara, a former congressional aide and future unsuccessful congressional candidate, who is such a hardcore partisan that he’s currently running the gubernatorial campaign of independent Eliot Cutler. O’Meara’s tenure was marked by squabbling with right-wingers and little progress on regaining legislative seats.

Next up was Kevin Keogh of Camden, who concentrated on raising money. Buoyed by some success, Keogh quit in 1994 to run for Congress (even though he’d promised not to). He lost the primary, but thanks in part to the groundwork he’d laid, Republicans actually captured control of the state Senate and the 1st District congressional seat.

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