LePage supporter hopes to share in Greenwood's bellwether status

GREENWOOD — For the past 44 years and 11 gubernatorial elections, Greenwood's 627 voters have picked nothing but winners.

Andree Kehn photo

Ken Roberts of Greenwood stands beside a Paul LePage campaign sign on his lawn Thursday. Roberts said that while the town of Greenwood usually votes for the winning gubernatorial candidate, he usually picks the loser. He hopes this year will be different.

Cathy Newell
Tony Reaves/Sun Journal

Cathy Newell

Resident Ken Roberts is an exception.

"I'm a loser when it comes to picking governors," Roberts said.

Roberts, 70, is a former selectman and retired mill worker. He's a staunch Republican, a party that hasn't fared so well in reaching the Blaine House. Only one, John McKernan, has been elected since 1966.

McKernan served two terms between 1986 and 1994, accounting for Roberts' two winning selections in the past 44 years. That's a lot of disappointment.

Roberts now says his vote for McKernan was a mistake. Not conservative enough.

This year, Roberts thinks he's found a winner in GOP Blaine House hopeful Paul LePage.

"I look at the one candidate who's going to make change," he said. "(LePage) is the only one."

Given Roberts' track record, his support for the Waterville mayor would seem to be an ominous sign. Unless, of course, LePage happens to carry Greenwood on Election Day.

A recent analysis by the blog Pine Tree Politics included Greenwood among 26 Maine towns whose voters have gone with the eventual winner of Maine's governor's race every election for the past 20 years.

But according to data from the state's Elections Division and the Law and Legislative Reference Library, Greenwood's bellwether status goes back even further — all the way to 1966.

It would be easy to dismiss Greenwood's winning streak as a statistical anomaly. But these folks — sans Roberts — have picked some squeakers: Democrat Kenneth Curtis' 50.1-to-49.9 percent victory over Republican James Erwin in 1970; independent James Longley's 39.1-to-36.3 upset of Democrat George Mitchell in 1974; McKernan's 46.7-to-44 win over Democrat Joseph Brennan in 1990; Angus King's 35.4-to-33.8 win over Brennan in 1994.

So what makes Greenwood, a town of 762 people, according to latest U.S. Census statistics, so great at picking governors?

"Personally, I have no idea," said Fred Henderson, chairman of the Greenwood Board of Selectmen, who described participation in town government as pretty low.

"People don't come to board meetings unless they have a problem," Henderson said.

Henderson, by the way, is voting for Democrat Libby Mitchell.

So is resident Cathy Newell, chairwoman of the Oxford County Democrats. Newell said Greenwood residents get involved just like people in other small towns.

"It depends on what's going on," she said. "There's been a couple of controversies, like changing the name of the Post Office or allowing Jet Skis on the pond. Those issues have brought people out."

Just because Greenwood residents don't typically dive into local politics doesn't mean they're not engaged voters.

According to statistics with the state Bureau of Elections, 82 percent of Greenwood residents are registered voters. Most of them, 40 percent, are independents, or unenrolled. Registered Republicans have a slight edge over enrolled Democrats, 28.5 percent to 27.7 percent.

Since 1998, voter turnout in Greenwood has been about 51 percent.

Those statistics don't mean much to Roberts, whose interest in politics is more embedded in his daily life. He is well-known in Greenwood.

Deputy Town Clerk Angela Lovejoy said, "If you want to talk about politics, call Kenny. He'll talk your ear off."

Roberts used to work at the Round Pond Corner Store on Route 26. He would hold court there with some friends and former owner Robert Coolidge.

"When Ken was there, he had quite the following," Newell said. "They'd sit around drinking coffee and talk politics for a good part of the morning."

Newell said that changed when Coolidge sold the store six years ago. Now, there are few places in town where people like Roberts can talk politics.

But that hasn't diminished his interest or his allegiance to the GOP. And he's quite satisfied with the party's current drift to the far right. He calls the state's two Republican U.S. senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, RINOS (Republicans In Name Only).

"The next time (Snowe) is up, I'll write-in Daffy Duck," he said.

The entrance to his driveway on Greenwood Road is flanked by lawn signs for Republican candidates, including LePage and legislative candidates Tom Winsor and H. Sawin Millett Jr.

He even has a sign for a candidate that isn't in his district, Ann-Marie Grenier, the Republican challenging state Sen. Democrat Bill Diamond in Senate District 12.

Greenwood is in District 14.

Roberts' GOP allegiance is so strong that his wife, Barbara, claims he once refused to drive her to the polls because she was going to vote for another candidate.

"She was going to cancel my vote!" Roberts said.

This year the couple appear to be on the same page. Barbara says she'll probably vote for LePage, although she found some of the candidate's outbursts distasteful.

"You don't tell the president to go to hell," Barbara said. "It's just not right."

Ken Roberts, sitting with his arms crossed at the couple's kitchen table, shakes his head.

"He tells it like it is, and we need that," he said.

If the majority of Greenwood residents agree, LePage — and Roberts, for the first time in 20 years — could be celebrating come Tuesday night.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Fred Stone's picture

Well foks

I am not a state worker and I already voted for LePage and ALL Republicans on the ballot.i have been a registered Democrat for a long time and it's time we quit the tax and spend party.

Bob Wright's picture

dlaurels, you wouldn't happen

dlaurels, you wouldn't happen to a state worker who cannot justify her existence, would you? I too would be afraid of LePage if I were you.

Doreen Sheive's picture

Hope he is wrong

I hope that this man is wrong, yet again. Please vote for Eliot Cutler, our only real choice.

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