Who says the Republican Party can’t win Maine’s 1st Congressional District seat in 2008?
Actually, nearly everybody. And with good reason. In the last four decades, the only GOP successes in southern Maine were caused by screw-ups or dead people.
First, the screw-ups. In 1974, incumbent Democratic US representative Peter Kyros got involved in a minor scandal in Washington over leaving the scene of an accident. To avoid unpleasant questions from his constituents, Kyros decided not to do much campaigning. He lost to political unknown David Emery.
In 1982, the entire Democratic Party screwed up by nominating John Kerry, an anti-abortion candidate who gave incoherent answers about his conscientious-objector status during the Vietnam War. John McKernan, pro-choice and non-conscientious, won the race.
Unfortunately for Republicans, the Dems can’t be depended on to engage in similar antics every year. The GOP has to create its own breaks. Which means the party’s nominee will have to impersonate a dead person.
In 1994, Jim Longley Jr. took the seat, because a significant percentage of voters thought he was his father — a popular ex-governor, who had died 14 years earlier. Longley Jr. would probably still be in Congress if he hadn’t fouled up after the election by insisting he wasn’t his old man.
Still, this strategy has appeal. Just pretend to be some departed icon, such as Anna Nicole Smith. Or is that Margaret Chase Smith? It’s so easy to confuse them.
To avoid such an embarrassing error, I’ve compiled a list of convenient corpses for potential GOP hopefuls to exhume:
Steve Abbott, chief of staff for Senator Susan Collins, is smart, experienced, moderate and has connections to big campaign contributors. But he needs name recognition. He should start calling himself “Bud” Abbott and, during interviews, occasionally refer to Collins as “Costello.”
State Senator Jonathan Courtney of Springvale fashions himself as the working-class candidate. The grunge vote is his for the taking if he pretends to be Courtney Love’s late husband, Kurt Cobain. I know that’s a stretch, but it’s not my fault there aren’t any famous dead people with Courtney for a last name.
Dean Scontras of Eliot also suffers from a lack of eminent forebears. A recent returnee to Maine, Scontras spent 14 years making big bucks in high tech. He’s pro-life, but told a reporter he could support a pro-choice presidential candidate like Rudy Giuliani. Contradictions like that will come off better if he pretends to be baseball great Dizzy Dean.
Charlie Summers has name recognition, but he got it by losing a race for this seat in 2004. He’ll be spending a large part of the run-up to this election far from the campaign trail, serving on active duty in Iraq. To overcome those obstacles, he needs a memorable persona, such as Montague Summers, author of the 1926 classic The History of Witchcraft and Demonology. Hey, he wasn’t going to get the religious right vote, anyway.
Peter Cianchette is unlikely to run, but if he does, he’ll have to deal with resentment caused by his abrupt withdrawal from the 2006 governor’s race. To lose that baggage, Cianchette should disguise himself as Phil Harriman, a former state senator from Yarmouth, who’s gone to the political graveyard (by which I mean talk radio). To honor his passing, Harriman’s name is required by state law to appear on all lists of potential GOP candidates for any office. The previous two sentences fulfill that legal obligation.
Brian’s (swan) song
My column two weeks ago on state Representative Brian Duprey of Hampden and his bill to make it a crime to use “Opposite-Gender Bathrooms” in bars elicited dozens of comments.