Each election year, this column spares no expense (by which I mean “spends no money”) on a lavish ceremony (by “lavish,” I mean “cheesy,” and by “ceremony” I mean “a brief printed reference, possibly including a misspelled version of the recipient’s name”) to honor (“insult”) those who best exemplify (“lack plausible deniability”) the innovative campaign techniques (“weird public behavior”) of Hayes Gahagan.
In 1978, Gahagan, a former-Republican state senator from Caribou, announced he was running for the US Senate as an independent. Soon afterwards, he held a news conference to proclaim that persons unknown had altered his official campaign photograph, inserting subliminal images of sexual organs in his hairline. As evidence, he offered magnified pictures of his scalp, although the result looked suspiciously like dandruff. He lost the election. Gahagan, who now lives in Presque Isle, surfaced again in May, authoring a newspaper op-ed in which he accused the Democratic Party of being a Nazi front. And he has the subliminal images to prove it.
There’s nothing a lazy political columnist likes better than slapping a guy who claims to have genitalia on his noggin with a derogatory nickname (“Richard-head? No. How about Ricky-head? No ...”). But sometimes, I have to get my mind out of the gutter — or the hairline — and devote my creative energies to this season’s awards.
The envelope, please.
The You-Don’t-Get-To-Maine-Too-Often-Do-You-Tourist-Boy Award For Clueless Commentary By An Out-Of-State Journalist goes to Tom Curry of MSNBC. In a May 27 posting on the network’s Web site, Curry speculated that GOP presidential candidate John McCain could win Maine’s 2nd District this November, thereby snatching one of the state’s four electoral votes. (Maine awards an electoral vote to any candidate who wins a congressional district.) Every four years, this same scenario surfaces, although, to date, such a division has never occurred. But that’s not Curry’s mistake. He claims that campaigning in northern Maine is a bargain — a mere $50,000 can buy heavy play on TV in Bangor, the 2nd District’s “biggest city.” Except the biggest city is actually Lewiston, which is part of the Portland TV market. Where $50,000 won’t buy you as many 2nd District votes as Hayes Gahagan got when he ran for the Senate in ’78. An effective campaign in northern Maine requires tube time in Portland, Bangor, and Presque Isle. Even if you skip the subliminal images, it ain’t cheap.
The Political-Obliviousness Award For the Reality-Challenged is presented to Project Vote Smart. Every election year, this national nonpartisan group asks candidates to fill out a questionnaire on their positions on issues. Every election year, most candidates refuse. Project Vote Smart then gets all whiny about the brush-off. In 2008, just 12 percent of Maine’s legislative primary candidates answered the group’s questions. Among congressional primary hopefuls, the number was 38 percent. The response from this state has declined every year since this do-gooder enterprise began in 2000 (when 57 percent responded), because candidates have discovered that while few voters care whether they fill out the form, the sector of the public most likely to make use of their answers is their opposition. Saves a lot of research. Project Vote Smart is a nice idea. Like cold fusion.