Now we know why Gov. LePage recently sold his Boothbay home – he’s living mortgage-free in the heads of some Democrats.

So concerned are they of a repeat of the 2010 campaign, when a three-way race gave LePage his path to victory, that they are pressuring independent gubernatorial candidate Terry Hayes to pull out of this year’s race. In August. Before the first leaf turns color, or the last Canadian tourist leaves Old Orchard Beach.

As first reported by the Bangor Daily News, Chris Johnson, chairman of the Lincoln County Democratic Committee, asked members last week to attend one of Hayes’ campaign events to let her know that by staying in, she risks swinging the race in favor of Republican Shawn Moody.

Maine Political Report



In the letter, Johnson referenced a recent poll that has Moody and Democrat Janet Mills in a virtual dead heat, and far ahead of Hayes and the race’s other independent, Alan Caron, who were at 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

“She is unelectable,” Johnson wrote.

It is “very clearly a two-person race,” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a statement to the Bangor paper.

Those are bold statements to make before most voters have even started paying attention. How would they have used such a powerful crystal ball back in 2010, when LePage eked out a win over Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler, giving rise to all the talk of “spoiler” candidates?

Would they have asked Cutler to drop out when he was polling as low as 9 percent as late as the end of September, even though he ended up being the stronger candidate, and almost beat LePage? Or would they have urged their own candidate, Mitchell, to drop out, before she finished a distant third?

Placing the spoiler label on Cutler assumes that the Democratic Party owns a certain sector of voters, and that any candidate who wishes to speak to those voters from outside the party system is trying to steal them.

The reality is, at this point, there’s simply no telling whose message is going to resonate with voters.

If Hayes is still in the low single digits in October, the former Democratic legislator will have to ask herself if staying in the race is worth jeopardizing the candidacy of Mills, with whom her values seem to generally align.

But this early in the race, the campaign – and Mainers who are trying to make a decision – only benefit from additional voices; it forces candidates to more clearly stake out and articulate their positions.

That was the main selling point of ranked-choice voting – that by taking away concerns over spoilers, campaigns could focus more on ideas than on voting strategy.

Without ranked-choice voting in use in the governor’s race, however, it seems that strategy may once again take center stage.

Democrats should remember that fighting over spoilers did them no good in 2014, when it was feared that Cutler and Democrat Mike Michaud would split the vote.

In the end, LePage won, and that likely would have held up even if Cutler had dropped out, as so many Democrats pleaded with him to do.

LePage, having somewhat lucked into a win in 2010, put his record front and center in the 2014 campaign, and won outright.

As this year’s race gets underway, Democrats should forget about spoilers, and simply make their case.