If you're an independent, you know that one of the advantages of not belonging to a political party is that you don't have to help choose the US Senate nominees for the Republicans and Democrats from a list of retreads, reactionaries, rejects, and rectums.
Of the 10 people seeking the nominations, three and a half could be considered marginally qualified. Three and a half are utterly unqualified, but no more so than several sitting senators. And three should have their licenses to impersonate sentient beings revoked.
Let's start with the best the donkeys and elephants can muster.
The GOP's Rick Bennett, a former state Senate president, has leadership qualities, clear positions on issues, and the name recognition of the Portland Sea Dogs' equipment manager. Outside his home base in Oxford County, his campaign has been anemic (although, putting 50 lawn signs in a bunch on a median strip in Portland did result in one person asking me, "Bennett who?"). As a senator, he'd be a lot like Olympia Snowe, except with different genitals.
Republican Bill Schneider has an excellent resume (Green Beret, federal prosecutor, Maine's current attorney general), an engaging personality, and an odd TV spot that says he "fought every day to put an end to Obamacare." He did? Where? On Xbox? Schneider is even less well known than Bennett, and his unfocused campaign could form the basis for a video game called Mass Ineffectiveness. If he makes it to DC, he, too, would vote a lot like Snowe.
Name recognition isn't Charlie Summers's problem, at least in southern Maine. He's been a GOP candidate for Congress in the state's 1st District three times — without coming close to winning. Summers currently serves as secretary of state and, for what it's worth, was once a legislator. His solution to all the country's problems seems to be getting rid of the Department of Education. If you liked Snowe, you'll probably be able to tolerate Summers.
And the above-mentioned half: the upper portion of Democrat Matt Dunlap. He was a terrible secretary of state, once missing a crucial deadline for certifying referendum signatures. But he later did a decent job filling in as head of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. Also, he looks sort of acceptable when compared to the rest of the Dem field — although almost anyone would. As a senator, he'd be more liberal than Snowe, but not by much.
Now for the unqualified-but-not-unimaginable candidates:
Dunlap's lower half falls in this category, for reasons already mentioned.
Republican Bruce Poliquin is Maine's ethically challenged state treasurer and was a gentleman tree farmer, until the discovery of ethical problems there, too. He tries to overcome his grating personality by always standing as close to Governor Paul LePage as he can get. Poliquin thinks he has the Tea Party vote sewed up, and he could be right, because they're pretty desperate. He'd be far more conservative than Snowe, stopping just short of the lunatic fringe.
Democrat Jon Hinck is a founder of Greenpeace, a lawyer, and a legislator of the extreme liberal sort that gets elected in Portland, but almost nowhere else in the state. He's little known, poorly financed, and a less-than-engaging campaigner, although every now and then he shows signs that with a little more experience — say a couple of decades — he could be somewhat competitive. To the left of Snowe. Way, way to the left.