Friday, March 7, 2014
I am attracted to big lifts and clear objectives. I am a sucker for the underdog and Cinderella stories. And I love a good Cobb salad.
I found all the above when I had lunch last week with Stephen Woods of Yarmouth.
The first declared candidate in the 2014 race for governor, Woods also holds the distinction of being, far and away, the guy with the furthest to go.
Public Policy Polling contacted 510 Maine Democrat Primary Voters earlier this month and provided them with a list of potential Democratic candidates for the June 2014 primary. Just one respondent expressed a preference for Woods.
Due to rounding Woods gets zero percent of the support in the published results. Undeterred, he wants his to be the story of a candidate going from zero to the Blaine House and is already prepping a campaign bus for the journey.
My friend and fellow columnist Michael Cuzzi reacted to the Public Policy Polling numbers by suggesting through twitter that his fellow Democrats need to reject established pols and recruit a private sector candidate who can discuss job creation, business growth, and taxes.
Stephen Woods fits Cuzzi's criteria.
Woods is president and CEO of Tidesmart Global, a collection of six companies headquartered in Falmouth that develop experiential marketing initiatives for national clientele like Lowes, Nestle and Ford.
Woods understands that communication and connectivity dominate our new national economy and is the one candidate among all the rumored or announced entrants in the 2014 race for governor with experience in creating new economy jobs here in Maine.
Politically, Steve Woods is far less accomplished but no less determined.
Woods is chair of the Yarmouth Town Council and, like so many giving back to their cities and towns across Maine, is committed to community stewardship. He is completely immersed in the minutia of municipal government and the costs of maintaining the infrastructure that makes life and commerce possible.
Woods was an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Failing to garner the attention and political traction of a contender, Woods dropped from the race with days to go and endorsed eventual winner Angus King.
Before the last of the 2012 campaign signs had been removed from roadways and intersections, Woods had registered as a Democrat and announced his candidacy for governor.
Heading into 2014, Woods has zero name recognition, no established connections to primary voters, and will likely face former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci in the primary. As a pundit with column inches and twitter followers, I have a near blood oath obligation to label the Woods for Governor campaign an exercise in futility.
But I am also a political tactician who believes all things are possible if you have the resources, ideas and will to win. I am certain Woods has at least two of those critical components.
Time and money are the two resources coveted by every political upstart. Woods has both. He must spend them aggressively making targeted connections with the primary voters who will determine the Democratic nominee in 2014.
When it comes to ideas, Steve Woods likes to think big.
He argues that Maine's economic challenges are not unlike trying to power a tractor-trailer truck with a go-cart engine. We are, he maintains, sustaining far too much infrastructure to ever be competitive.
Woods will soon introduce the Maine 2.0 initiative detailing the types of structural changes he believes are needed in our state over the next 20 years. His ideas make the consolidation and administrative efficiencies proposed by Gov. LePage look like chump change.
While he has ideas and resources, I am left wondering if Woods has the will to win in politics under the established rules of the process. And that is by no means a knock on his character.
Woods has exceedingly high expectations for the electoral process. He believes name recognition should not be the qualification needed to serve in higher office, he is frustrated by presumptive coverage decisions by the media, and would like citizens to spend more time learning about the issues and candidates.
When it comes to campaigning, Woods is ready for high-minded debates about billion dollar problems and innovative solutions. But that will have to wait.
We are in the beginning of small talk season. This is the time when the party faithful gather just a few at a time at suppers, coffees and committee meetings. These are the venues where Woods will have to present his ideas in terms that are consistent with party ideals.
If Woods can muster the political will to match his ideas and resources he will, at a minimum, start a debate about our state's future that is worth having. If he does better than that, we will have to consider the rise of Woods to be a true Cinderella story.
Dan Demeritt is a Republican political consultant and public relations specialist. He is a former campaign aide and communications director for Gov. Paul LePage. He can be contacted at: