I'm not one of those people who assumes that just because somebody casually mentions they're thinking about running for governor of Maine in 2010, that they should be restrained, subjected to electro-shock therapy, and deported to someplace where they can't do any harm.
North Korea, maybe. Or Miami.
Just kidding about the second one. Even I'm not that cruel.
As incumbent Democratic Governor John Baldacci gets fitted for webbed feet, a large yellow bill, waterproof wings, and a crutch, I welcome his potential replacements, who are beginning to emerge from the primordial slime of politics at the larval level.
With the Blaine House race wide open in '10, the candidates will be as numerous as ticks on a moose. Over the next two years, these proto-pols will be exploring their metamorphosed forms, testing their new wings, and making tentative blood-sucking noises through their proboscises.
So slap on the DEET, because here comes a rundown (in more than one sense of the word) of some of the likely — and unlikely — contenders, starting with the Democrats.
Outgoing Attorney General STEVEN ROWE of Portland (disclaimer: my wife is an assistant attorney general) is smart, experienced (in addition to his eight years as AG, he's a former speaker of the Maine House and a retired US Army captain), a competent manager, and severely charisma-impaired. He's likeable — if you can stay awake.
MAJOR DRAWBACK In 2007, his wife, Amanda Rowe, was a leading advocate for the Portland School Committee's controversial decision to allow some middle-school students to obtain birth control without parental consent. Expect the religious right to focus on that issue to the exclusion of all others. Rowe will have to be alert to keep the wackos from defining his candidacy as being about letting kids having sex.
JOHN RICHARDSON of Brunswick is also a lawyer, a former House speaker, and a person who tends to cause attention deficits whenever he opens his mouth. He currently serves as Baldacci's economic development commissioner, which may not be such a great platform for campaigning, at a time when development has pretty much ground to a halt. Richardson devoted a lot of his legal career to representing unions and can count on strong support from organized labor.
MAJOR DRAWBACK During the 2006 gubernatorial race, Richardson held a loopy press conference attacking Republican nominee Chandler Woodcock for a bunch of stuff that made no sense. Once he declares his candidacy, expect that video to show up on YouTube.
Conservation Commissioner PATRICK MCGOWAN also has an impressive resume — legislator, congressional candidate who nearly knocked off Olympia Snowe, New England director of the US Small Business Administration. He may give up a little to Rowe and Richardson in the intellect department, but he's a far more engaging campaigner.
MAJOR DRAWBACK Earlier this year, McGowan was investigated by the feds for allegedly helping friends hunt moose illegally by spotting the beasts from a plane. He was cleared, but that won't matter to the rumor mill.
Term-limited state Senate President BETH EDMONDS of Freeport was effective enough to get some business done in a chamber nearly equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Edmonds has deep roots in her party's left wing, particularly among social-service types, who can be influential in a Dem primary. As a campaigner, she has a hard time controlling her inherent wonkiness.