Senate race is pretty unspectacular

No one expected Maine’s U.S. Senate race to be scintillating, but this one has fallen well below expectations. The last time there was an open Senate seat, in 1994, Reps. Olympia Snowe and Tom Andrews went at each other hammer and tongs, but the fight was clean and above-board.

Andrews later confessed, tongue in cheek, that he had picked “the perfect year to run as a liberal Democrat” – this was the start of the exceedingly short-lived “Gingrich revolution” – but at least the voters had a clear choice.

Compare that to the murky mess produced by the attack ads the Republican Party and the shadowy “Super PACs” have inflicted on us.

King, the front-runner, has been the target of most ads, which initially criticized his handling of state government – difficult to sustain, since King is widely seen as Maine’s most successful governor since at least Ken Curtis, long ago. The latest focus is those horrible wind towers King help install on Record Hill in Roxbury.

Strong majorities of voters support windpower, and they probably understand that to build wind turbines you also have to build access roads and pads for the towers. Whether they are really susceptible to ads where people pretend that the former governor was raping and pillaging his way across the countryside is doubtful, but that isn’t stopping the onslaught.

In truth, King has seemed a little rusty as a candidate this time out. He’s now 68, has been out of office for a decade, and his primary motivation seems to have been to go to Washington and strike a blow against mindless partisanship. It’s appealing, but it’s not really the basis for an effective campaign.

Explaining how Maine can turn its moribund economy around, what plans King has to improve health care, and what his stance is on public education are probably more what voters are looking for. But would those messages even get through amid the din?

The trouble with the GOP and Super PAC campaign so far is that they have been bombarding King without really doing anything for their preferred candidate, Charlie Summers.

If King has been a bit lackluster, Summers has been barely visible. You can attack and attack, but unless your candidate has something to say, it’s simply going to alienate voters.

The Republicans have noticed, though, that one of the beneficiaries of the attacks could be Democrat Cynthia Dill, by far the least well-known among the candidates. She has doubled her support since the June primary. Although admittedly coming from extremely low levels – 7 percent, in one survey -- the voters the GOP is trying to peel away from Angus King aren’t headed in Charlie Summers’ direction. His support hasn’t moved over the one-third threshold, and that won’t get it done.

So the next gambit – attack Dill. The latest mailing from the Maine Republican Party proclaims that Dill is “too liberal for Maine.” It ties her to President Obama, which seems dubious given Obama’s commanding lead here over Mitt Romney. We are supposed to be shocked that Dill said, “I don’t think that being a progressive Democrat means that you’re partisan.”

It also zeroes in on a headline used for her op-ed piece: “Cynthia Dill: U.S. Senate campaign is a challenge against fear.”

I’ve long thought that Republicans are in danger of becoming the Party of Fear, but do they really think advocating fearfulness is going to win votes? Charlie Webster, the GOP chair, really must be losing his touch.

In the end, Angus King is probably going to be our next U.S. senator if this is the best the attackers can do. It may seem plausible that Dill, like Andrews before her, is “too liberal” to win a statewide race. But Dill’s real problem is that almost no one knew her when she won the primary, and in competing against a popular two-term governor she’ll have a tough time winning over even fellow Democrats.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision allows, for now, wealthy individuals and corporations to spend unlimited money on elections, but advertising alone isn’t going to win races. A survey showing almost 40 percent of the viewers who still watch TV regularly zap out the ads seems to clinch that point.

Summers’ official website, should you want to check, also spends most of its space attacking King and Dill. It does say that Summers will “fight for jobs, fiscal sanity, and solutions to our looming energy crisis.” A few details would have been nice.

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Comments

Norman Mitchell's picture

From Our Governor

To quote our Governor Paul Lepage Maine’s first RPS law was established in 1999 under the King Administration. It’s unfortunate that some politicians after leaving office benefited financially from those policies. Working the system to pad your pockets does not represent Maine values. Don't vote King if he gets back in political office makes me wonder what else he will put over on us to turn a profit !

Norman Mitchell's picture

King

Angus Wind power change some laws so you can make money on the backs of the working people of Maine then want my vote I dont think so !! You have helped to destroy the quality of place for those of us here that love the great state of Maine ! The Economic Impact of Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard the RPS law will raise the cost of electricity by $145 million for the state’s consumers in 2017. The increased energy prices will hurt Maine’s households and businesses and, in turn, inflict significant harm on the state economy. In 2017, the RPS will: Lower employment by an average of 995 jobs! Reduce real disposable income by $85 million! Decrease investment by $11 million! Increase the average household electricity bill by $80 per year; commercial businesses by an average of $615 per year; and industrial businesses by an average of $14,350 per year ! why dont you go back to Virginia maybe they will elect you !

Brad Blake's picture

Rooks Shills for King

This guy should not be provided the free space to shill for his buddy Angus King under the guise of analyzing the Senate race. There are many who dispute the success of King's governorship for starters. Rooks front loads his piece with that statement and then goes on to defend wind power development.

King is responsible for the destruction of Flathead Mt. and Partridge Peak in Roxbury. The only way to build wind turbines on Maine's mountains is to blast a way and level millions of cubic yards of the mountains. The roads are built of rock to support 100 tons or better creeping up steep slopes. Every turbine pad is similar, with deep blasting to pour enough concrete to anchor monstrous machines and the torque that happens 470 feet above in the wind. It is an environmental disaster that is happening way too much all over the uplands of our beautiful state.

The destruction of the mountains and ruination of our rural "Quality of Place" and its impact on tourism and property values far outweighs any miniscule output of electricity from the project. That is a valid campaign issue, how King & Gardner lined themselves up to feed off the trough of taxpayer subsidies and how the project has such questionable finances that King wrangled a $102 million federal guaranteed loan. This, in spite of the Yale Endowment being part of the project!

The fickle trickle of wind power from Record Hill has set the project up to fail. In June of this year, Independence Wind received an up-front gift of taxpayer money to pay debt that was coming due. The ARRA Sec. 1603 funds are $33.7 million, but the project accepted this payment in lieu of the Production Tax Credit for 10 years. With the project selling it's feeble, unpredictable, unreliable output (averaging around 25% of capacity) in the electricity market, it will likely not generate the revenue needed to pay it's debt, meaning the taxpayers get to pay it through the loan that King deceptively obtained by calling some software for feathering turbine blades an "innovation". Yeah, right---more likely he got the loan approved through his connections with the Obama administration.

Rooks may belittle this wind issue due to his abiding devotion to Angus King, but there is a huge issue here that makes me work hard to see that King doesn't go to Washington because he will not be representing my interests and I will never forgive him for the destruction of Roxbury.

Alan Michka's picture

Rooks: "Strong majorities of

Rooks: "Strong majorities of voters support windpower..."

Strong majorities of voters also have virtually no knowledge whatsoever of wind power's details, nor Maine's policy and laws pertaining to it. So, what's the point? What Mr. Rooks is really saying is that "lots of people who haven't the slightest knowledge of the thing they're commenting on are in favor of it." So much for educated decisions.

Like so many others, the wind industry benefits from an uninformed populace. Fortunately, that's starting to change. The industry knows that it's losing public support, as was acknowledged at the American Wind Energy Association summit in Portland earlier this month. People are learning more about the realities of wind power development, its impacts and its significant limitations. That's bad for the mostly out of state developers, but good for the future of our in state resources.

Dan McKay's picture

If the writer is looking for

If the writer is looking for something worthy for his dictation, he should go to Record Hill and see the 22 representations of junk science which are a perfect example of a "spectacular" waste of taxpayer/ratepayer money

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