He used his ability to appeal to a significant minority of the electorate to propel himself and his pals into the governor's office. He appeared poised to become a major power broker in the state for years to come. But then, he said some things that were both stupid and false. Even people who agreed with him on the issues began to question his reliability.
And just like that, he was political toast.
Republican Governor Paul LePage?
Well, yeah, but I'm talking about Dennis Bailey.
Bailey, the Portland public-relations guru, guided independent Angus King to the governorship in 1994. He hasn't picked a significant winner since then, but managed several anti-gambling campaigns, winning consistently, until last year when he seemed to lose his mojo. For years, movers and shakers sought his advice, including MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor, the owners of the Scotia Prince ferry, the developers of an LNG terminal in Quoddy Bay, the Finance Authority of Maine, and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli. The clunkhead who writes this column once called Bailey "the state's best political operative."
But then, that same dope thought Ethan Strimling was going to be a congressman and Jim Longley Jr. wasn't. (Hey, there was a recession. Both credit and credibility were in short supply.)
Back to Bailey. Last year, as he was directing Scarcelli to a third-place finish in the Democratic primary and helping independent Shawn Moody end up next to last in the general election for governor, he was also busy working anonymously on a website called "The Secret File on Eliot Cutler." When Cutler, also an independent candidate for governor, complained to the state ethics commission about the mud-slinging material the site contained, Bailey's name came up as a possible author.
He denied it, both to the commission staff and to the media. "I know stuff about it," he told the Bangor Daily News, "but I'm not responsible for the content."
That was sorta, kinda, almost-but-not-quite true. Thomas Rhoads, Scarcelli's husband, wrote the material. All Bailey did was help him out by setting up and maintaining the site. He later said he hadn't been completely forthcoming because he didn't want the Moody campaign, which he was still advising ("Act more like Angus King and less like Rosa Scarcelli"), dragged into the mess he had created.
Eventually, Bailey 'fessed up, Rhoads was exposed, Scarcelli denied knowing anything about what her husband and ex-political aide were up to, and Moody lost. The world returned to normal, except Bailey is still suing the ethics commission for fining him two hundred bucks for failing to disclose his identity and connection to the Moody campaign.
And there was one other small consequence. Some people who until then had been relying on Bailey for political advice began to edge ever so casually toward the door. In particular, the anti-gambling crowd, which had blindly followed his lead since he beat back an attempt to turn Scarborough Downs into a racino a decade ago, appeared disillusioned with him. Whether it was his entanglement with the Cutler smear or his inability to beat the Oxford casino, his former allies were looking to distance themselves from Bailey.
In April, a new anti-gambling group surfaced called Mainers Against A Rotten Deal. Its initial press release didn't mention Bailey or his group CasinosNO! by name, but left little doubt who they were aiming to replace.