The field looks as if it’s been hit by a terrible disaster. No part of the landscape escaped unaltered. No structure remains undamaged. No living thing stirs.
Southern California after the wildfires?
New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?
A Boston Bruins home game?
None of the above. The field in question is that of Republican candidates in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. The disaster in question is that there aren’t any. It’s as if everyone with the slightest interest in challenging incumbent Democratic US Representative Mike Michaud had been wiped out by a plague. At the moment, the nomination for a seat the GOP owned from 1972 to 1994 is available to anybody who wants it, including ex-FEMA public-affairs officials and members of the Dixie Chicks.
Even with those relaxed standards, there aren’t any takers. State Representative Debra Plowman of Hampden has begged off, saying she might get around to it someday. Scott Koffman of Sabattus, vice-chair of the Maine GOP, gets mentioned, but seems to be having problems jump starting his courage. Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon, who lost to Michaud in a landslide in 2006, is playing it coy. Although, lots of Republicans would rather concede the race than endure another round of D’Amboise attempting to counter the incumbent’s vague promises of economic improvement by pledging to institute the entire social agenda of the religious right.
The situation for Republicans couldn’t get any grimmer.
Oh, wait. Maybe it could.
“If the GOP fails to find a deluded sucker to run in the 2nd District, I may feel compelled to offer my name,” John Frary of Farmington told me in an e-mail. “I contemplate a two-pronged strategy (a good start, strategists love prongs). First, let it be known that I’m determined never again to abandon the sacred soil of my native state. Second, annoy so many voters that they will send me south of the Kittery bridge out of sheer vindictiveness.”
Frary is a 66-year-old, retired college professor, who dresses as if the Roaring ’20s had never quieted down and speaks as if he were saying exactly what was on his mind. He comes off as a cross between a slightly more refined W.C. Fields and a somewhat dissipated Benjamin Disraeli.
“I must assume that the GOP prefers a candidate who is solemn but not serious over a candidate who is serious but not solemn,” Frary e-mailed. “A candidate who is serious (as opposed to a ‘serious candidate’), as you well know, has no prospect of victory in American politics, so there is little danger of being exiled to the District of Columbia. Still, the prospect of making new enemies is damned inviting.”
Frary spent his career teaching college in New Jersey, where he once lost a race for the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, which sounds a lot weirder than it is. He returned to Maine in 2004 (“My vision of retirement was John Frary lying in a hammock like Moby Dick in a net”), where he began turning out a newspaper column (he once suggested titling it “Frary, Frary, Reactionary”) filled with powerful logic and pointed wit. Nevertheless, he was chosen, more or less by default, as chairman of the Franklin County Republican Committee and elected, more or less by the voters’ fault, as a selectman in Farmington.