Three the hard way

Gubernatorial candidates
By AL DIAMON  |  November 30, 2011

The current field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates consists of one who's already run unsuccessfully, one who's a member of the 1 percent of rich and powerful Americans the Occupy Maine movement is protesting, and one who's sort of loopy.

That's a big improvement over 2010, when the nominee was Libby Mitchell.

Maine voters won't choose a governor until 2014, and a lot could change by then. But the early maneuvering has begun, as the contenders try to scare each other off and position themselves to avoid allowing independent Eliot Cutler to suck away the Democratic base, as he did last year.

If the Dems decide a centrist candidate is their best bet for beating back Cutler, they could go with state Senator Bill Diamond of Windham. Diamond ran for governor in 1986, and in spite of an underfinanced and unfocused campaign, finished a respectable third in the primary, mostly on the strength of his excellent hair. His resemblance to Mitt Romney doesn't stop there. Like the Republican presidential frontrunner, he's also done a one-eighty on abortion, although in the opposite direction, going from pro-life in the late '70s to pro-choice by the time he ran for governor a decade later.

In addition to serving eight terms in the Legislature, Diamond held the post of secretary of state for eight years and ran for Congress in 1994, again finishing third in the Dem primary. All that won't help him much in branding himself as a political outsider, but maybe by 2014, the electorate will have tired of that fad and will again respect experience. And third-place finishes.

Diamond's record is one of caution. He's never been the guy leading the charge for risky initiatives such as Dirigo Health, although he hasn't been afraid to stand up for allowing insurance companies to do pretty much whatever they want. For a Democrat, he gets decent ratings from business lobbyists and gun-rights groups, while also scoring well with environmentalists. Lately, he's been pushing an initiative to spend more money cracking down on child pornographers, because who could be against that — other than people who understand there isn't any money. He rarely says anything really stupid, but he also almost never says anything memorable.

If one word sums up Diamond, it's "bland."

That's something nobody has ever accused Justin Alfond of being. Alfond is the assistant minority leader in the state Senate and represents a district that includes Portland's peninsula, arguably the most liberal neighborhood in the state. He comes from a wealthy family known for its philanthropy, spent a couple of years trying to be a pro golfer, helped found the Maine League of Young Voters (back then, it was known as the League of Pissed Off Voters and campaigned to get "Stupid White Men" out of office, a position Alfond apparently no longer supports). He now works as a real-estate developer and co-owns a bowling alley with Libby Mitchell's son. (Uh oh.)

Alfond has an unblemished record of supporting the left-wing agenda, even sponsoring an unsuccessful bill to allow people who aren't American citizens to vote in municipal elections. In spite of his far-to-portside stands, he's had the audacity to label GOP leadership and Republican Governor Paul LePage as "extremists."

That, however, was way back in August. Lately, he's just criticized LePage for not being more collaborative with friendly folks like him.

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