YARMOUTH — An article published online late last week by the Independent Voters Network revealed that former state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, is considering a run for U.S. Senate against incumbent independent Angus King. Should he be worried?

Most people consider Sen. King’s re-election in 2018 a near certainty. But not so fast. It’s been speculated for some time that Gov. LePage is also considering challenging Sen. King. Yes, I’m talking about the Paul LePage who got 48 percent of the vote in 2014, trouncing his two opponents in a state that also gave an electoral vote to President-elect Donald Trump in 2016.

So how does this play out? One could envision Diane Russell energizing the dreams of 15 or 20 percent of voters from the Bernie Sanders left, Republican Paul LePage holding strong to his 40-plus percent base, and Angus King winding up back home in Brunswick in a distant second place. And voila, a minority of Maine voters launches LePage on to the national stage.

Fortunately, from my perspective, Maine’s elections will use ranked choice-voting in 2018. That translates to an instant runoff between LePage and King, and King returning to Washington with 55 or 60 percent of the vote, just as we expected all along, and just as a true majority of Maine voters find acceptable.

So Diane Russell should dive right in. We have no spoiler problems in Maine anymore. Justin Alfond? Ethan Strimling? Go for it. We want to hear their hopes and dreams for America.

Of course, all this assumes that the Maine Legislature and secretary of state do their jobs and implement ranked-choice voting in 2018, as the people have demanded by public referendum, and as state law now mandates.

Let’s turn now to the 2018 governor’s race. Lots of speculation there, too. And assuming that Susan Collins takes a pass, the field is wide open. If you’re worried about the state of politics in this country, and you care about Maine, and you think you have something positive to offer our great state, what better time than now to run for office?

My speculation is that there will be eight or 10 Democratic Party candidates, eight or 10 Republican Party candidates, a Green Party candidate, a Libertarian Party candidate and three or four independents.

If that happens, it is a wonderful thing. Wonderful that we’ll have an engaged group of citizens stepping up to the best of America’s democracy by running for public office. Wonderful that they will bring with them a diversity of ideas, vision, experience and talents.

And thanks to ranked-choice voting, we have an ingeniously efficient way to whittle down these 15 or 20 candidates to the one among them who best represents the views, ideals and hopes of Maine voters most broadly – someone who is most likely to bring us together, rather than divide us.

But again, this sensible whittling down of the field assumes that the Legislature and secretary of state do their jobs and implement ranked-choice voting in 2018, as the people have demanded, and as state law mandates.

Maine is getting national attention for putting into law a reform that definitively improves democracy in multi-candidate races. In crowded party primaries, as we will likely see in the 2018 governor’s race, there will be a sequential narrowing down of candidates to a nominee with the broadest appeal to each party’s voters.

That is the ingenious system that Maine voters put into law when they passed ranked-choice voting.The same sequential narrowing down of candidates will then happen in the general election, assuring a final winner with the broadest appeal to all Maine voters.

In the upcoming U.S. Senate and governor’s races, I truly welcome anyone who wants to run. At this crazy time in American politics, I welcome anyone stepping up and running for any public office, whether it’s Town Council, School Committee, sate representative, governor, U.S. Senate or anything else. I say dive in. But I can say that only because we have ranked-choice voting.

If the Legislature and secretary of state somehow fail in implementing ranked-choice voting for 2018, even though state law clearly mandates it, and even though the people have clearly demanded it by public referendum, then our democracy will have been blatantly compromised.