The field for the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Maine is set. Independent incumbent, Angus King will take on Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey and a Democrat whose name will be no more memorable after the election than it is right now.
GOP Gov. Paul LePage had said on several occasions that he might challenge King, but in early May, his top political adviser announced LePage would take a pass. His official reason was that he has too much work to finish in Augusta before his term runs out in January 2019. His unofficial reason is that even LePage recognizes his meager talent for governance is ill-suited to the legislative branch since he’s congenitally incapable of being courteous, respectful or abiding by the Geneva Conventions.
With all other potential Republican contenders focused on succeeding LePage in the Blaine House, that leaves the Senate nomination to Brakey, a libertarian-leaning conservative from Auburn. In two terms in the Legislature, Brakey has earned a reputation for hard work, innovation, collaboration and being slightly nuts (he continues to be vigilant against even vague hints of the United Nations’ Agenda 21). Best known as a gun-rights advocate, he’s also fought to make it tougher to get welfare, make it easier to get marijuana and make it legal to drive without wearing a seatbelt. He’s summed up his political philosophy thusly: “Government must get out of the way.”
With Brakey as their nominee, Republicans will have to abandon one of their most beloved attacks on King, that he wasn’t born in Maine. King moved here from Virginia as a young man. But Brakey relocated from Ohio. Another knock on King is the false claim he made big money in the wind industry at taxpayers’ expense. While he earned a small profit off wind, King became a millionaire by selling his energy efficiency company to Central Maine Power. On the other hand, Brakey’s family runs a consulting business with a reputation for aiding corporations in avoiding mandatory energy conservation standards.
As for the (reasonably valid) claim that King’s voting record shows he’s nothing but a closet Democrat, much the same attack can be launched against Brakey’s GOP credentials. He led a libertarian revolt against the mainstream party at the 2012 state convention. He’s regularly supported increased spending at the Department of Health and Human Services. And there’s that legal pot thing.
The 28-year-old Brakey will also have to overcome his lack of experience. Aside from his (almost) three years of legislative work, he’s done a bit of acting and not much else. That won’t stack up favorably with King, who just turned 73 and has been a lawyer, successful businessman, two-term governor, TV talking head, author and senator.
But enough about those two. Let’s examine the fallow field of possible Dem candidates. Some party leaders aren’t worried about that because they believe putting forth a strong Democratic contender would split the moderate-liberal vote and hand victory to Brakey. Others are convinced the term “strong Democratic contender” is an oxymoron.
Portland attorney Tom Connolly, who once ran a quixotic gubernatorial campaign against King, is busy putting his kids through college. Cynthia Dill, the Dems’ nominee when King ran in 2012, has spent her time since then repeatedly demonstrating in her newspaper column that she’s learned absolutely nothing from her disastrous third-place finish. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is occupied with self-destructing. Perennial candidate Barry Hobbins just got chosen by LePage to be the new public advocate in utility rate cases and may finally have recognized that’s the highest government office he’s ever going to hold. Shenna Bellows has already lost a hopeless U.S. Senate race to Susan Collins in 2014, won a state Senate seat in 2016 and has shown no inclination to repeat her earlier mistake. Windham state Sen. Bill Diamond sure wishes somebody would include his name on a list of possible candidates for something, but no one ever does.
Finally, there’s Pruneface, the old Dick Tracy villain. Aside from being fictional and horribly deformed (hey, I have absolutely no problem voting for nonexistent people with physical disabilities), he’s also an elitist and a Nazi terrorist.
That doesn’t necessarily make him the worst possible choice.