The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: Affection affliction

Let’s review a mildly fictionalized debate among the three Republican candidates for the 2nd Congressional District seat:

“I like Trump better than you.”

“You do not. I’m way more of a Trump fan than you.”

“You’re both wrong. I love Trump. Just love him.”

After reading this transcript, you might conclude the entire campaigns of Dale Crafts, Eric Brakey and Adrienne Bennett boil down to nothing more than trying to prove which one of them is the biggest Trump-humper.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition to kissing the presidential posterior, each of these would-be U.S. representatives has an extensive platform that – by the most amazing of coincidences – exactly aligns with Trump’s positions. Close the borders. Cut welfare. Don’t wear a mask. Bring American troops home so they can invade our cities. Always carry a Bible in case there’s a photo-op.

Nevertheless, there are significant differences between them.

Brakey, a former Auburn state senator and unsuccessful 2018 U.S. Senate candidate, claims on his website to be a “10th-generation Mainer,” even though he was born in Ohio and didn’t move here until 2012. Brakey is all about freedom. By which he means guns. He believes you have a constitutional right to carry firearms wherever you like. But Brakey is no crazed extremist (well, actually, he is). He’s willing to recognize some limits on liberty. Those constraints start with women’s reproductive health care. Just because a female is allowed to tote an AR-15 doesn’t mean she can get an abortion.

Crafts is a former state representative from Lisbon, who’s been endorsed by ex-Gov. Paul LePage. According to Crafts’ website, he favors the free market and low-priced energy because it “keeps us secure in a dangerous world.” When it comes to health care, he’d let that free market take care of that, too. His economic plan calls for doing “everything we can to keep this record-breaking economy moving forward.” (His website could stand a little updating.) Did he mention that LePage endorsement? OK then, how about Jesus? Crafts is an evangelical Christian, who thinks what this country needs are more prayer meetings. Also, more elected officials endorsed by LePage.

Bennett spent seven years as LePage’s press secretary. Before that, she was a TV news reporter in Bangor. After that, she worked briefly in banking and then as a real estate agent. Bennett became adept at explaining away LePage’s many erroneous – often racist – comments without using such terms as “drunk” or “stupid.” Like LePage, Bennett is fond of pointing out how she grew up poor. From her website: “She saw how welfare dependence sapped the motivation from her household.” She’s all for Trump’s trade policies, which have killed off lobster exports to China and Europe. Maybe folks on the dole can be motivated to buy the surplus.

There hasn’t been any reliable polling in this race, but Brakey appears to be the frontrunner. He’s raised more money. He’s done more advertising. He’s avoiding interviews and debates. And Bennett and Crafts are more likely to attack him than each other.

Still, the coronavirus has made it difficult to assess candidates’ support. Their Trumpier-than-thou approaches are based on the assumption that because The Donald carried the 2nd District by a substantial margin in 2016, he’ll do it again this year. Lately, though, support for the Narcissist-in-Chief seems to have eroded, calling into question the value of unswerving loyalty.

One of the surest signs of a shift in the district’s attitude was the 2018 election that saw GOP Congressman Bruce Poliquin defeated by Democratic state Rep. Jared Golden. Since then, Golden seems to have squandered much of whatever advantage he had by bumbling his way through his first term, trying to satisfy both sides on issues such as impeachment, economic stimulus, and foreign trade.

So, Golden is vulnerable. But so is Trump. In much of the 2nd District, the coattails of the Great Prevaricator are as tattered as his morals.

Come November, that won’t bode well for whichever of his sycophants wins the Republican primary.

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