June 8, Primary Day, is but a week away. Are you ready to make an informed vote? Our democracy only works if we voters have sufficient information to make reasoned judgments.

In that regard, I was concerned to read the results of a recent statewide poll by Critical Insights in which 42 percent of those polled could not identify any gubernatorial candidate.

What planet are these people living on? We live in a state facing substantial problems – a state with high unemployment and little job creation, a state that lags most of the nation in the two factors statistically most correlated to a growing economy: the proportion of college graduates and spending on research and development, a state that faces a chronic billion-dollar budget shortfall.

I could go on, but let’s just say it is important to elect a governor in November who has some understanding of these issues and some capability to help us confront them squarely and effectively.

Next Tuesday, the two major parties will select their candidates to lead the state for the next four years. The Democrats have four nominees, three who are veterans of Maine politics, one who is a newcomer from the business world.

The Republicans have seven candidates, only one of whom has significant experience in and with the Legislature. I will indicate how I would vote were I to vote in each primary. My perspective is that of the moderate – a person who for most of my adult life was a moderate Republican but who became so disillusioned with the Republican Party of George W. Bush that I switched my allegiance to the Democratic Party back in 2006.

I should also note that my choice in November, based on what I have seen of the candidates so far, is Eliot Cutler, an independent, and therefore not subject to a public vote on June 8. I believe Cutler has that combination of insight, political savvy, and intellectual resilience to address the formidable challenges Maine faces.

But the November election is still months away, and I would hope that strong challengers from both the Democratic and Republican parties give Cutler a chance to show how he measures up.

So, if Cutler does not hold up through November, whom would I support from each party? The Democratic race is the tougher to call because I am not sure any of the four candidates has the ability to face up to the difficult choices ahead for Maine. Rosa Scarcelli, the political newcomer, is simply too inexperienced in the politics and the issues to trust at this juncture. She has promise, but the state needs more than promise.

Unfortunately, Libby Mitchell, Pat McGowan and Steve Rowe have all been part of the chronic-overspending-and-reluctance-to-face-the-issues problem for so long that I fear each, if nominated, would choose to muddle along and hope for the best.

The best of the group is Steve Rowe because he is the most capable, has high integrity and did show, when he was House speaker, an ability to work across party lines.

The Republicans have several candidates likely to find some traction among party faithful. With a relatively low turnout, the nomination could be won by at least four of the candidates – Les Otten, Peter Mills, Steve Abbott or even Paul LePage. For me, Otten and Abbott both have promise.

Steve Abbott has been, by all accounts, a superb chief of staff for Sen. Susan Collins, and has all sorts of potential. Les Otten, while a controversial figure, is a businessman of real ability with significant leadership experience. Each of these is credible as a gubernatorial candidate.

Nonetheless, state Sen. Peter Mills, of all the Republican candidates, stands out as one of the most capable legislators in Maine for many years – endlessly innovative, unafraid to do what he believes is best for Maine, regardless of the politics, and scary smart. Mills would get my vote in the Republican primary.

Finally, there are five questions on the referendum ballot. I am voting “no” on Question 1 – which asks for the repeal of the tax reform law passed in the last Legislature. This law does two good things: it lowers taxes for 95 percent of Maine citizens, and it broadens the overly narrow and unpredictable state sales tax.

I plan to vote “yes” on the bond issues which are Questions 2 through 5 on the referendum ballot. This is a modest bond package supported by both parties in the Legislature that will provide seed capital for economic development in Maine – and we desperately need economic development.

See you at the polls.

 

Ron Bancroft is an independent strategy consultant based in Portland. He can be contacted at: [email protected]