Ethan Strimling and Phil Harriman look at how Ed Thelander has fared on the campaign trail and mull Chellie Pingree's future.
Ed Thelander and Rep. Chellie Pingree. Credit: File / BDN

Phil: Hey, Strim, did you hear that there was a race in the 1st Congressional District in Maine? You know, the district where both of us live?

Ethan: Sure. There are lots of races down here. State House and Senate. A few county commissioners. Town and city councils. Which one were you referring to?

Phil: I was actually referring to the race between U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and newcomer Ed Thelander. 

Ethan: Oh yeah, I did hear about that. But isn’t it more like the race to determine how much — fill in the sacrificial Republican lamb here — will lose by?

Phil: If the media keeps refusing to cover Thelander with any depth, and Pingree for that matter, I expect you are correct.

Ethan: From what I see, Thelander has had some in-depth coverage. First, he was reported as saying that federal regulators were “raping” the lobster industry. Then that Maine’s election was rigged. And then that kids are going to the bathroom in litter boxes. All three he obviously had to walk back since they were either insulting to survivors of sexual violence or completely untrue.

Phil: He’s a rookie candidate making rookie mistakes. You can’t say stuff that you can’t back up, and you should not allow your emotions to get ahead of your tongue. But I commend him for apologizing and walking back statements that were wrong.

Ethan: Yeah, we don’t see a lot of accountability from GOP candidates for their false or inappropriate words these days.

Phil: Same for your side, but that’s a topic for another day. Thelander has highlighted a lot of important issues about border security, the national debt, spending and our economy. That’s what voters actually care about, not supposed litter boxes in schools. But yet none of that gets reported. But more importantly, I truly wish we had a press that covered Pingree’s policies more closely. I served with her back in the 20th century, and at the time, she was considered a moderate. Yet over the years, her positions are moving left, whilst she talks about bipartisanship on the campaign trail. Did you note how many times she mentioned Susan Collins at the last debate?

Ethan: Are you sure it is Pingree who has moved left, and not your party that has moved so far to the right that the ultraconservative Mitt Romney is now seen as reasonable? I mean she wins every race by double digits, and certainly you can’t call all of southern Maine “the people’s republic of socialism.”

Phil: While the rural parts of the 1st District are moderate, the cities of Biddeford, Brunswick, Augusta and Greater Portland are decidedly not. And they overwhelm the numbers at the ballot box. 

Ethan: Sorry, but Pingree won Waterville, Winslow, Withrop and Windham in 2020, just to name a few of the rural conservative towns that start with the letter “W.” Maybe if your side didn’t nominate far right candidates like Dean Scontras and Jay Allen, you’d have a shot.

Phil: Good advice. That said, if the anticipated red wave occurs, Pingree will move back into the minority. That will be solace for my side, as she will no longer be in power. If so, she may begin thinking about running for the Senate or retiring.

Ethan: We still have a path to retaining control of the House, and if we do, she will become even more influential as her seniority grows. That would be good for Maine.

Phil: I just wish you had felt the same about Collins and her seniority.