The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Phil: What is going on with Gov. Janet Mills and her re-election? She barely has $9,000 cash on hand! Asking for a friend.
Ethan: I thought I was your only friend? Yeah, if she is truly serious about keeping the Blaine House in 2022, which is what we all want, she sure isn’t impressing (or scaring) anyone. I mean her Facebook and Twitter pages still say “Governor-elect” and tell people to vote on “Tuesday, Nov. 6th”… 2018!
Phil: At this point in his re-election bid, Paul LePage had raised over $200,000 and his fundraising was a fully oiled machine with hundreds of donors.
Ethan: Mills literally had eight donors last quarter. Eight! And, what little money she spent, she seems to have spent on holiday cards.
Phil: Did you get yours? Because I didn’t get mine.
Ethan: I am sure both of ours got lost in the mail. Look, just about every Democrat in the state is pleased with the job she’s doing, and most independents. However, from what I hear on the street, she can’t even decide on staff to run her campaign. She simply has to get serious about running or get out of the way for someone who is.
Phil: Harsh, but true. If she doesn’t run, who do you think your new best friend will be?
Ethan: Senate President Troy Jackson would be the frontrunner. He’s well known in the 2nd Congressional District, well respected in the Legislature by his peers, and is a strong progressive. While Democrats lost seats all over Maine last fall, he bucked the tide and led the state Senate to its largest majority in almost 40 years. His heart is with struggling Mainers, and he knows how to talk to them.
Phil: I also hear Hannah Pingree might be in the mix?
Ethan: I have heard the same and she would certainly be Jackson’s strongest competition. She has a good reputation from when she was House Speaker and she’s also solidly progressive. Like Jackson, it’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t like her. She had been out of the spotlight for a few years, but re-emerged when Mills asked her to serve in her administration.
Phil: Of those two, I suspect Jackson would be the tougher opponent for our side. Pingree serving as “Commissioner of the Department of the Future” does not instill confidence that you are doing something useful with taxpayer money. Plus, while her last name may make her loved among southern Democrats, in the 2nd District I expect her mom’s highly partisan style isn’t a crowd pleaser.
Ethan: If it were Jackson vs Pingree, it would be a classic north vs south primary. If you look at our past four nominees, the north usually wins those battles. Of Mills, Mike Michaud, Libby Mitchell and John Baldacci three were from the 2nd District (and Mitchell beat two more southern Democrats). Much to my chagrin, in the general election we haven’t had a 1st District Democrat win a general statewide election since Joe Brennan did it in 1978!
Phil: Only if you accept that Sen. Angus King is not a Democrat…
Ethan: Speaking of friends, what’s going on with former Gov. LeRage? Is he gonna make that comeback the insurrectionists in your party covet?
Phil: Ouch, that was a little harsh. I tell you what, if Mills keeps wiggling and waggling on the sidelines, I think he might see his opportunity. He certainly would win the Republican primary in a landslide and he would relish taking her out of office.
Ethan: No love lost between those two, that’s for sure.
Phil: And if Mills keeps hesitating, and LePage decides not to run, I expect there will be a ton of my Republican friends looking to get that seat. Maybe next week you’ll let me talk about them?
Ethan: Works for me. But you make the best argument for why Mills has to get her act together and start getting serious about running for re-election. Another four years of “Trump before Trump,” or some other iteration of red, would be a nightmare some of us just can’t handle.
Phil: That’s why I hope she keeps dawdling. Your nightmares are my pleasant dreams.
Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.