The 2014 election was a traumatic event for Democrats. If you want to know how traumatic, take a look at L.D. 850.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland, creates a process to replace a U.S. senator who leaves office before the end of his or her term.

What does that have to do with 2014? Well, the hot rumor after the last election was that Sen. Susan Collins, who was just re-elected, might decide to end her career in the Senate and run for governor in 2018.

If she won (and does anyone think she wouldn’t?), then Gov. LePage would get to name a replacement until the next election. Prevented from running again for governor, there is nothing stopping him from naming himself – making him the incumbent senator in advance of the 2020 election.

But not so fast! L.D. 850 would require a special election to fill an unexpired term, foiling LePage’s dastardly plan!

That’s right – the Democrats are not only scrambling to figure out what they are going to do in 2020, but they are also assuming that they’ve already lost 2018. LePage has gotten in their heads.

They might be missing a real opportunity, however. Instead of trying to prevent LePage and Collins from trading places, maybe they should be trying to make it happen as soon as possible.

What would it take? Some new laws? A couple of constitutional amendments? Get the scholars on this before it’s too late.

For decades, baseball fans have wondered what would have happened if the Yankees and Red Sox had traded Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.

The right-handed DiMaggio hit long drives to left center field in Yankee Stadium that were caught for outs. In Fenway, they would have been doubles off the wall.

Williams, a left-handed pull hitter, would have feasted on the short porch down the right field line in Yankee Stadium if he had played half his games there.

The trade never happened, and it remains an intriguing “what if.” Just like Collins for LePage – straight up.

Look at the situation in Augusta. Right now lawmakers are looking at two competing tax plans. LePage’s would cut the income tax and pay for it with increases to the sales tax, along with spending cuts down the road.

Democrats would cut the income tax only for middle-class earners, putting the money saved into property tax reductions for homeowners.

Both plans call for exporting tax burden to tourists, dropping thousands of lower-income families off the income tax rolls and sending a sales tax credit check to the lowest earners.

No one likes everything in both plans, but there are things in each plan that would be popular in the other party’s caucus. Sounds like there is a deal to be made – if we had a governor who likes to make deals.

Instead, we’ve got a guy who has replaced “Dirigo” with “my way or the highway” as the state’s motto.

Does anyone think that Paul LePage will reach across the aisle to look for common ground? The guy who won’t issue bonds that the voters approved? The guy who fires people who don’t even work for him (like Community College System President John Fitzsimmons)? The guy who vetoed the full-pint glass-of-beer bill?

Not likely.

It’s fun to imagine how Collins might handle this same situation.

In a politically polarized Washington, Collins has been looking to make deals for 18 years, doggedly if not always successfully. She’s looked for compromise on issues like the minimum wage and immigration reform when senators of both parties preferred to sit back on ideological safe ground and do nothing. Sometimes, like with gays in the military, she’s able to find a way through.

Could Collins find a compromise on a tax plan on which both parties already agree on key building blocks?

What do you want her to do after lunch?

The other side of the trade would send a hard-core ideologue to Washington, where he would pound the podium and thunder at the opposition. Sounds like he would fit right in.

The national media would love it. Can you imagine a Paul LePage filibuster – hour after hour of pure rage? It would define Maine’s image for a generation. No more “Murder She Wrote” jokes for us.

Democrats should not overlook an opportunity here.

If Collins and LePage want to trade places, Democrats should not get in the way, as long as the trade can happen right away.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: gregkesich

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