Who’s the worst politician in Maine?

Worse than Republican Gov. Paul LePage, whose blustering and blundering have blunted most of his policy initiatives.

Worse than 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Libby Mitchell or 2012 Dem U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill, both of whom failed to connect with voters in even the most superficial ways.

Worse than David Marsters, a candidate for selectman in Sabattus, whose Facebook postings this summer included one using a racial slur in calling for the death of President Obama.

OK, it’s Marsters, who by comparison makes LePage look Lincolnesque and Dill and Mitchell positively Jeffersonian. It really wasn’t much of a contest.

But the race for second worst pol in the state is considerably tighter, including the aforementioned threesome and a surprising dark horse. This long-shot candidate is someone who rarely makes public appearances, doesn’t often speak to the media and hasn’t taken stands on most contentious issues. Yet, this person has still managed to alienate a larger percentage of the population than LePage, Mitchell or Dill.

Take, for example, the way the second worst politician described Maine on Forbes magazine’s website in 2011: “We have the most aged population in the country. … I believe we have one of the highest adult obesity rates in New England. We have … OxyContin abuse. … Maine’s the largest net receiver of Federal funds, even though we supposedly hate the Feds … it’s a welfare state.”

For good measure, our runner-up attacked the forest products industry as being in “complete denial” that its business plan was no longer viable and called rural Mainers who live in the Katahdin region “tone deaf when it comes to the environment.”

A week later, this pol sent a letter to the Bangor Daily News apologizing. Mainers weren’t geriatric, blubbery freeloaders, the letter said, so doped up on prescription meds that they’d even vote for somebody who’d be foolish enough to utter such insults. Instead, the state’s residents had “honesty, nobility and pride.”

At least she didn’t claim she never said the insulting stuff or if she did say it, her comments were taken out of context. Because she did, and they weren’t. So in that, she’s one up on the likes of LePage.

As you may have guessed by now, the state’s second worst pol is none other than Roxanne Quimby, founder of the Burt’s Bees personal care products company, one-time potential Green Independent Party candidate for governor, flighty patron of Portland artist colonies, one of the state’s largest individual landowners and the driving force behind the controversial effort to turn her 70,000 acres near Baxter State Park into a national park.

To her credit, Quimby seems of late to have recognized some of her shortcomings. Which is more than can be said of LePage, Mitchell and Dill. After the Forbes debacle, she withdrew from the limelight, turning front-man duties over to her son, Lucas St. Clair, who’s everything his mother isn’t: likeable, credible, comfortable in front of the cameras. Since 2011, St. Clair has been attempting to haul his mom out of the public-relations hole she dumped herself in.

That won’t be easy. Quimby has built a reputation for not always backing up what she says. When opposition to her national park idea got particularly heated in 2005, she told Down East magazine she was dropping the idea. She didn’t. Over the years, she’s put up gates to limit access to her property, only to take them down when they generated public anger. She bought two historic buildings in Portland with the aim of creating artist colonies, but even before renovations were completed, she abandoned the idea – along with the gutted buildings. She banned hunting, fishing and snowmobiling on her land, causing economic hardship in an area dependent on those forms of outdoor recreation. At St. Clair’s urging, she’s gradually been easing up on those restrictions.

Last week, Quimby’s company announced it was opening 40,000 acres to hunters, snowmobiles and ATVers. St. Clair painted the change in policy as a model for the type of land use that would be allowed if a national park ever became a reality. But area residents, apparently mindful of Quimby’s tendency to abruptly shift gears, were able to curb their enthusiasm. “I don’t see it as a game-changer,” one snowmobile advocate told the Portland Press Herald. If the park were approved, said a guide, “everything is subject to change.”

The folks around Millinocket may be, as Quimby once noted, old, fat, doped up and sponges on society, but they’re still capable of learning from experience. They’ve seen her switch directions too many times to believe this latest change is anything more than a ploy designed to ease opposition to the park. It will take more than her son’s facility with the media to convince them otherwise.

For starters, Quimby would have to be named the state’s third worst politician.

Nominations for the bottom 10 are open. Email them to me at [email protected].


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