The list of young Maine politicians with serious prospects of someday being elected to higher office is shorter than Governor Paul LePage's temper.
On the Democratic side, there's former House Speaker Hannah Pingree and, let's see . . . uh . . . what about . . . er — Hey, somebody call security! Gubernatorial primary loser and smear campaign non-participant Rosa Scarcelli is trying to crash the party again.
The Republican incubator isn't functioning much better, with retreads like congressional loser Dean Scontras and state Senate President (and congressional loser) Kevin Raye clogging up the fallopian tubes. The GOP elected a lot of new legislators last year, but most of them have so far displayed skill sets best suited for long tenures on the junior varsity.
That situation leaves Democrats desperate for a candidate with detectable brain activity to run against GOP US Senator Olympia Snowe next year (after she uses the Republican primary to put a decisive end to the myth of the Tea Party's political influence). The GOP may be forced to call on Raye to make another bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by Democrat Mike Michaud, who's already beaten him once.
In the 1st District, the names being floated to take on incumbent Dem US Representative Chellie Pingree (and her multi-millionaire fiancé Donald "Perhaps you'd like a ride on my corporate jet, sweetie pie" Sussman) include Scontras (before he decided to move to Virginia), State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin (a disaster in 2010's GOP gubernatorial primary), state Senator Jon Courtney (exactly how is he different from Scontras?), state Representative Meredith Strang Burgess (just kidding — I think) and anybody — anybody! — with the last name Cianchette.
This unsettled situation leaves the door open for a newcomer. Somebody with a fresh approach. Also, somebody with more ambition than common sense. And it wouldn't hurt if that person were independently wealthy.
That looks like a description of — assuming you're willing to forget the independent-wealth thing — Patrick Calder.
Those who pay closer attention to grassroots politics than many psychiatrists consider healthy may remember Calder as the Republican candidate in Portland's House District 114 in last November's election. He got trounced two to one by Democrat Peter Stuckey, an outcome that has in no way diminished his enthusiasm.
"My vote share was higher as a percentage than what Dean Scontras got in Portland," he said.
Calder recently sent out an e-mail to GOP insiders, introducing himself ("a young [he's 28], optimistic, fiscally conservative candidate") and saying he was thinking about taking on Pingree.
His background isn't exactly ideal. Although he was born and raised in Eastport, he left Maine right after high school and didn't return until 2010. On a League of Young Voters candidate questionnaire last year, he said he took off because of the state's high taxes, but if that's so, what's he doing back here?
Calder works in the merchant marine as a ship's engineering officer, which he claims gives him all the experience he'll need for Congress ("running an operation, meeting a payroll"). During his legislative race, he called himself a member of the "Portland Tea Party," but now says it would be "shortsighted to only cater to a small segment of the population."