KENNEBUNK — Kennebunk High School junior Patrick Grady may just run for political office some day. If he does, he’ll already have campaign experience under his belt.

He’s already volunteered for a candidate, lending some of his time this year to independent Eliot Cutler’s bid for the Blaine House; but an even more direct test of his political skills came earlier this past autumn, when he campaigned for ”“ and won ”“ the governorship of Maine’s Model State program, which pitted him against competitors pooled from young political aspirants throughout the state.

The selection process echoed that of an honest-to-goodness campaign. Run through the YMCA, Model State held a series of caucuses whereby candidates from a throng of schools teleconferenced with KHS, facilitating what amounted to a series of primaries before Grady’s eventual nomination. During Model State’s big weekend event in Augusta, Grady parlayed his nomination into a direct competition with two other hopefuls, and did what politicians do: worked the gathering for votes.

“I tried to be humble throughout the weekend, so I didn’t rub people the wrong way,” said Grady. “I had to work it so I was trying to be nice to everyone. I thought that would be the best way to go.”

Grady felt good about his chances as the weekend wore on, but said he was still “startled” when his name was chosen on Sunday morning. He described the scene as akin to a Hollywood awards ceremony.

“It was like being at the Oscars,” he said.

It was a significant step forward for a student seriously considering a life practicing the political arts.

“I’ve always gravitated toward politics, but especially in the past couple of years,” said Grady. “Everyone says bad things about it, but I see it as a way to get things done.”

While acknowledging the prevalence of partisan gridlock, Grady said, “I want to be one of the people who changes that. … In order to change the way things are done, you have to change it from the inside out. I want to make politics not a dirty word.”

To that end, Grady, who plans to register as an independent, said the ideal scenario would be the abolishment of political parties altogether.

“I see political parties as a way to highlight the differences between people, rather than bringing people together,” he said. “You can categorize America in a number of different ways, but we’re all part of one thing. We’re all part of America.”

It’s a philosophy of independent-mindedness that informed Grady’s research for his speeches and debate in the run-up to the final election. To prepare, Grady developed detailed plans for how to address Maine’s infrastructure, education and economy. His proposals included a seasonal, 2 percent increase in taxes on rentals, liquor, restaurants, and places of lodging to bolster state revenue during the tourist season; raising teacher salaries and expanding technology education to prepare workers for jobs in a future economy; and creating jobs via government infrastructure initiatives.

It was enough to win him the governorship, but Grady stressed that he couldn’t have done it alone. He gave credit to his parents, Russ and Julie Grady, for their wisdom and support, and his Model State advisor, KHS teacher Fred Follansbee, for his advice.

When he graduates, Grady expects to be attending college in Washington, D.C., studying political science and possibly going on to law school.

For him, it’s about making a positive impact. But there was an additional advantage to his participation in this year’s Model State event: having fun.

“It was one of the most fun experiences of my life,” he said.

— Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected]

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