Thursday, May 23, 2013
SOUTH PORTLAND — The four Democrats running for Maine’s open U.S. Senate gathered at a Portland Regional Chamber meeting this morning to talk about small business, health care, taxes and energy.
But, first they had to confront the inevitable question: “How are you going to beat Angus King?”
“I asked for questions from the audience and it was the question I got from everybody,” moderator Chris Hall said apologetically.
The former governor and independent Senate candidate has been a recurring topic at Democratic and Republican gatherings. And the Democratic candidates showed Tuesday there are different ideas about how best to take on the frontrunner.
1. Go after King’s record. State Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, is in this camp.
Dill said she would compare her record of creating jobs and promoting economic justice with King’s veto of a minimum wage increase, opposition to an expansion of family medical leave and policies that weakened labor unions and left the state in a fiscal mess.
“When it comes to a record, I don’t believe Gov. King has a record,” Dill said.
2. Stay positive. Former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap made the case for this strategy, saying Maine voters want to hear how he would restore prosperity, not negative attacks against the other guy. Dunlap said he would have run against Sen. Olympia Snowe the same way.
“People were far more interested in their future than they were in her past,” he said.
3. Exploit weaknesses. State Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, said King benefits from the frustration with hyper-partisanship in Washington, but he would focus the discussion on the influence of wealthy business interests. (King happens to be a wealthy businessman.)
“The degree to which private wealthy vested interests dominate politics today hasn’t been addressed yet,” Hinck said. “We need to focus on that.”
4. Offer something completely different. Businessman Benjamin Pollard described himself as an unabashed, starry-eyed idealist with no political experience who could inspire new voters.
“Bring people into the political process who are not in the process now,” he said.
5. Cross your fingers. No one actually proposed this strategy, although Dunlap did point out that King has still not officially entered the race. As an independent, King isn’t required to file nomination petition until June 1.
Open Season targets all of Maine's political wildlife, from Portland city government to the donkeys, elephants and independents stalking the Statehouse and U.S. Capitol.
John Richardson joined the Press Herald in 1990 after working as a reporter in New Jersey. He has covered a variety of beats, including marine issues, the environment and health care. He is now covering politics and focusing on Maine's U.S. Senate race.
John can be reached at 791-6324 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @jrichmaine
Colin Woodard has covered politics and elections for more than two decades, from Bosnia and Bucharest to Washington, D.C., Augusta, and Portland City Hall. He has written for a wide range of national and international publications and is the author of four books, including "American Nations," a history of North America's regional cultures. He joined the Portland Press Herald at the end of April and covers political finance and lobbying, among other things.
Colin can be reached at 791-6317 or email@example.com
Susan Cover has covered Maine politics for 10 years and worked in Kansas, Ohio and Rhode Island as a reporter. This year, she is focusing on covering the same-sex marriage debate for MaineToday Media.
Susan can be reached at 621-5643 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Shepherd joined MaineToday Media in May 2012 after graduating from the University of Maine in Orono, where he edited The Maine Campus, the student newspaper there. Until November he'll be writing the Truth Test, a recurring feature analyzing political statements and advertising.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or email@example.com