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The Maine Green Independent Party is on life support. In less than two years, state officials could pull the plug, ending the Greens’ eight-year stint as an official party.
On the bright side, the funeral will provide those with the foresight to have preserved their hemp-fiber suits and earth shoes a rare opportunity to dig them out of their organic cedar chests and do a little politically correct stylin’.
On the downside, well . . . er, there doesn’t seem to be any. For all the Greenies’ talk about how they’ve altered the debate in Maine politics, the nearest the party comes to a legacy is having played spoiler in a couple of elections, thereby keeping Republican Olympia Snowe in office and Democrat Joe Brennan out of it.
The Greens’ impending demise is due to a state law, which grants automatic ballot status to political parties that gain at least five percent of the vote in either a presidential or gubernatorial election in a four-year period. Jonathan Carter got 9.3 percent in his 2002 race for governor (a disappointing number considering he spent nearly a million bucks in public money on his campaign). But in 2004, Green David Cobb’s run for president, even with the help of running mate and Mainer Pat LaMarche, didn’t attract enough voters to assemble a decent set of pallbearers.
So the pressure is on the Greens to come up with a gubernatorial candidate in 2006 who can find a cure for flatlining support. What the Greenies need is a dynamic leader with voter appeal.
Come to think of it, so do the Democrats. But at least the Dems have incumbent Governor John Baldacci, whose new tax-reform plan will, no doubt, turn him into the East Coast Schwarzenegger.
To counteract that, the Greens will have to search their ranks for somebody smart, somebody with a clear agenda, somebody who doesn’t come across like a nut.
Somebody such as . . .
Okay, there’s nobody like that in the Green Party. So it might be time to lower expectations. Let’s check the list of prominent Greenies for gubernatorial attributes.
First, there’s Carter. He’s run for Congress once and governor twice, so he’s experienced. At losing. In polls, his name recognition is high. And his negatives are off the chart. He was a key adviser to the campaign to pass the anti-bear-baiting referendum. Which got chewed up and spit out. If Carter runs again, he’ll be in danger of turning himself into the Green’s version of Brennan.
What about LaMarche? In her campaign for governor in ’98, she did less horribly than expected (she beat one of the kooks on the ballot). As the Green veep nominee, she got some national exposure (but so do most fringe candidates). As a morning radio personality, she’s media savvy (like Howard Stern). If LaMarche is the nominee, it’ll look like the Greens are desperate for a candidate. Which has the advantage of being the truth.
There’s John Rensenbrink, the party’s founder and a former unsuccessful candidate for the US Senate. His campaign slogan was "Don’t Eat the Seed Corn." Which explains why he shouldn’t run for anything ever again.
Ben Meiklejohn, is a former party co-chair and one of two Greens currently serving on the Portland School Committee (he’s the slightly less wacky one). After a few years in elected office, he’s doesn’t speak without thinking quite as often as he used to. Which isn’t the highest compliment that can be paid a politician.
Dorothy Lafortune is best known for holding off heavily armed Biddeford police for several days from her home, before being arrested for criminal trespass. That incident occurred after a judge ordered Lafortune evicted for refusing to pay her property taxes. Lafortune also ran in a special election for a state House seat in early 2004, a race marred by allegations her supporters pressured elderly voters into marking absentee ballots for Lafortune. Charges are pending against several campaign workers. But she hasn’t been indicted for anything. Lately.
A decade ago, Roxanne Quimby moved the company she founded, Burt’s Bees personal care products, out of state, claiming she couldn’t find qualified workers in Maine. Since then, Quimby has used the proceeds from selling her stock in Burt’s to buy up land for a proposed national park, meanwhile banning such traditional activities as hunting and snowmobiling on the 40,000 acres she’s acquired. She’d be the perfect candidate for governor — rich, articulate, knowledgeable — if only she wasn’t hated across most of rural Maine.
That leaves state Representative John Eder of Portland, the highest-ranking Green elected official in the country. During Eder’s first term in Augusta, he proved himself to be less inept than irrelevant. Which is much the same thing that’s said about Baldacci. So Eder’s already got that gubernatorial aura. Obviously, he’s the only guy who might be able to save the Greens from their terminal illness.
Whether I make you green around the gills or red in the face, email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Politics and Other Mistakes archive.
Issue Date: December 3 - 9, 2004
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