Congressman Bruce Poliquin could learn a lot from Shawn Moody right about now.

Both ran for high office in last week’s election.

Both lost – Moody a week ago Tuesday and Poliquin on Thursday, when the long-awaited tabulation of the ranked-choice vote in Maine’s 2nd District vaulted Democrat Jared Golden over Poliquin and into the winner’s column.

Different scenarios, to be sure. More noteworthy, however, is how these two accepted defeat and what that tells us, in the end, about who they are.

Moody took the stage at his campaign headquarters in Gorham early Wednesday morning – the “witching hour,” he called it with his trademark grin. He spoke for only two-and-a-half minutes and, whether you supported him or not, he left no doubt whatsoever that every word came from his heart.

“We experienced significant headwinds – nationally and right here in the state of Maine,” Moody told a silent room made more so by the clicking of the media’s camera shutters. “You know, I was at the polls today with the heavy turnout, and I could kind of get a feel or a sense, shaking hands with people going in, that a lot of people were on a mission.”

He spoke, quite correctly, about how the “political pendulum” swings and how, in this election, it swung “back the other way.”

“No sugar coat,” said Shawn Moody as he conceded to Janet Mills on election night. “I don’t point fingers or make excuses. I’ll take the medicine. We lost the race, and I just want to congratulate her on her win.” Staff photo by Gregory Rec

He then thanked his wife, Chrissi, kissed her on the cheek and thanked his campaign staff and volunteers for “banging on doors” all over Maine, undaunted by the cold wind and rain that marred the month of October.

He even thanked his brother, Thad, for running Moody’s Collision Centers so well in his absence that “I’m thinking to myself, maybe I should have gotten out of the way a long time ago.”

Next up, he praised Governor-elect Janet Mills for running “a great race.”

“No sugar coat,” he said. “I’m not the type, I don’t point fingers or make excuses. I’ll take the medicine. We lost the race, and I just want to congratulate her on her win.”

Finally, Moody said, “This is about Maine … We want to make sure that we move forward together.”

It was, if you know Moody as I do, tough to watch: A man who sincerely believed he had something to offer and, upon being told “Thanks, but no thanks” by a majority of voters, stood up to the microphones and, with nary a sour grape, demonstrated once and for all why so many Mainers liked him in the first place.

In his most difficult hour of a hard-fought campaign, Moody showed nothing but grace. When the time came to exit the political stage, he did so quickly and with class.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said at a news conference Tuesday that ranked-choice voting could be illegal under federal law. On Thursday, after the state determined that Jared Golden had beaten him, Poliquin said, “It is now officially clear I won the constitutional ‘one-person, one-vote’ first choice election on Election Day that has been used in Maine for more than 100 years.” Staff photo by Joe Phelan

If only the same could be said of Poliquin.

Let’s be clear. Maine’s 2nd District congressman is fully within his rights to go to court and challenge the constitutionality of a ranked-choice system that transformed his roughly 2,000-vote lead after Election Day into an almost 3,000-vote loss nine days later.

That said, it’s far from a winning strategy. Previous state and federal court challenges have all upheld ranked-choice voting, which functions as an instant runoff in multi-candidate races to ensure that one candidate – in this case, Golden – achieves a majority of the vote rather than a simple plurality.

Maine’s ranked-choice system, twice endorsed by Maine voters, appears well on the way to yet another judicial victory. In his 16-page ruling Thursday morning, in which he refused a request by Poliquin and three other plaintiffs for a temporary restraining order stopping the ranked-choice count, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker sent strong signals that the remaining constitutional challenge against ranked choice is going nowhere fast.

Walker ruled that Team Poliquin, in seeking to stop the vote count, had met none of the four requirements for a temporary restraining order – likelihood of success on the lawsuit itself, the potential for irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, the balancing of impositions between the plaintiffs and defendant, and the public interest.

Walker went on to note that the solution for Poliquin here, “where no constitutional infirmity appears likely, is to … persuade one’s fellow citizens of the correctness of one’s position and to petition the political branch to change the law.”

Ouch.

“Don’t tell it to the judge,” Walker appears to be saying. “Tell it to your fellow politicians and to the majority of Mainers who voted twice in favor of ranked-choice voting.”

So, what say the congressman now?

“It is now officially clear I won the constitutional ‘one-person, one-vote’ first choice election on Election Day that has been used in Maine for more than 100 years,” Poliquin said in a statement minutes after Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap declared Golden the ultimate winner. “We will proceed with our constitutional concerns about the ranked-vote algorithm.”

In other words, the man simply refuses to lose.

What’s worse, as his lawsuit careens toward a crash landing before Judge Walker sometime next month, Poliquin’s campaign has resorted to seeding groundless doubt about the integrity of the election itself.

Already, Poliquin and the Maine Republican Party have circulated photos wrongly suggesting that ballot boxes were not adequately secured. Not true.

They’ve also suggested hanky-panky at the election headquarters in Bangor. There was none.

Yet, for all their rumor mongering about a system that in fact performed perfectly, Poliquin and the Republicans have yet to file a formal complaint laying out their allegations about breaches in ballot security. That’s because, as they well know, there were none.

Another thing Poliquin hasn’t done is acknowledge even the possibility of what is becoming more painfully obvious by the day: He lost.

Maybe that moment will still come. Maybe, his legacy laid low by a fool’s errand to the federal court, Poliquin will at least acknowledge the young man, a Marine war veteran, who’s achieved what many on both ends of the political spectrum once considered impossible.

But two things are already clear.

Shawn Moody, devastated as he may have been by the will of the people, stood tall in the wee hours after Election Day.

Bruce Poliquin, meanwhile, shrinks by the minute.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

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