Green gubernatorial candidate Pat LaMarche has run unsuccessfully for the seat before, but this year, against a weakened Democrat and a crop of relatively unknown Republicans, and with up to $1.4 million in Clean Elections funding, could LaMarche, ahem, actually win?
She’ll have to play nice to stand a chance, believes Christian Potholm, government professor at Bowdoin College and a former political consultant for both of Angus King’s successful campaigns for governor.
“Most Green candidates think they have to win on ideology and duopoly and we’re against this and that,” he says. “But in politics most people vote for candidates because they like them.”
But if the Greens' future is pinned on LaMarche's likeability factor, they may have an uphill battle. A single mother from Yarmouth, LaMarche has worked as a radio personality on WGAN (though she was fired in 1997 when she was arrested for driving drunk and later convicted) and is now the director of the Children’s Miracle Network at the Eastern Maine Medical Center. She ran as a Green for Maine governor in 1998, and for US vice-president in 2004.
Greens call LaMarche “dedicated” and “qualified” and, to a person, everyone we spoke to within the party swore she can, and should, win. But at a speech at the University of Southern Maine in April to a group of 20- and 30-something Portlanders, LaMarche seemed to confuse passion and meanness.
About halfway through a vague hour-long speech about broad social injustices and her experience touring some of the country’s homeless shelters, a girl in the front row interrupted LaMarche while she was using Florida as an example of why Maine should institute a 15-percent hotel tax (the only specific suggestion about Maine policy she made).
“Yah, and Florida also has a big amusement park called Disney World,” said the girl, pulling air quotes around Disney World. “Maine doesn’t have that. You can’t do that here.”
LaMarche paused and stared at the girl, incredulous. She was about to answer when two or three other audience members did it for her, saying something needs to be done to relieve property taxes and it’s a good start.
Later, the same girl interrupted LaMarche in the middle of a full-body rant blaming the media for “dysfunctional” candidates.
“I disagree,” said the girl. “I don’t think you can blame it on the media. I think it’s your responsibility to get the truth.”
LaMarche turned and dove in close to the girl.
“No! You’re wrong. It is the media’s fault,” she said. No one interrupted this time. “Do you think CBS news covered my tour of homeless shelters? Do you think any other vice-presidential candidate did that? Was any other vice-presidential candidate talking about the truth, talking about what matters?”
The girl didn’t respond.
“No!” cried LaMarche triumphantly, throwing her arms up and striding backwards. “I do blame the media!”