Last Monday, Benjamin Crocker, the Republican candidate for state representative in District 118 in Portland, wrote a letter to the state elections office formally withdrawing from the race. If he’d stayed in, Crocker would have been pitted against two candidates united by their own wide-eyed liberalism — incumbent Green Independent John Eder and ferociously progressive Democrat Jon Hinck. Both Hinck and Eder promise to carry the West End’s notoriously crunchy ideals to Augusta.
And something about this bugged Crocker. He wanted more political process. He wanted a representative for the Republicans in the West End, whoever they are. So the 59-year-old psychiatrist and lifelong liberal held a spot for the other side.
“I’m honestly not particularly Republican, I’m just a person who signed up to do this particular thing, enact my own fantasy,” says Crocker.
His fantasy was to encourage the political process by holding a spot in the West End race long enough to give the party time to find a real conservative to run. “I went to the Republicans and I said, ‘Look, I’m a liberal, but I really think it’s important you run a candidate this year.’ They knew I was a place holder, I made that very clear to them. I said, ‘I’m too busy to run, I’m way too different from the Republican Party, it would make people feel that this was a sham.’”
But after several weeks, Crocker wasn’t able to convince any of the District 118 Republicans to run for the seat. He says he came close a couple of times, but, in the end, the potential candidate always bailed. Ben Gilman, political director of the Maine Republican Party, says the party is currently looking for someone to take Crocker’s spot.
Crocker had spent years hopping from the Peace and Freedom Party to the Green Party to the Democratic Party before registering as a Republican after the 2004 presidential election.
Though he was, in theory, in the thick of what will likely be one of the closest races on the peninsula, Crocker says he has no idea who might win.
“They’re two liberal guys,” he says. “Honestly, I don’t really care that much which one wins.”