Last month’s column, “Fresh When Others Were Tired,” discussed the early careers of Peter Garland and Stanley Tupper, two Maine congressmen whose recent deaths have brought renewed interest in their careers. Shortly after the column appeared, Tupper was the subject of a feature by nationally syndicated columnist David Broder, who eulogized Tupper’s independence and integrity.

My last column left off with a recap of the 1962 GOP First District race that pitted the conservative Garland against the liberal Tupper, the only campaign in the last century that featured two sitting Maine congressmen contending for the same U.S. House seat.

That battle ended with Tupper returned to the second of his three terms in Congress. Despite Garland’s defeat, this would not be the last that Maine would hear of him.

After Tupper’s 1962 re-election, he continued to pursue both a liberal political agenda and a close association with New York Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. His political priorities included teaming up with a future Rockefeller nemesis, John Lindsay, the Manhattan Republican congressman and future Gotham mayor. Among their collaborations was co-sponsorship of Medicare, something that only a handful of Republicans, including Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, were then espousing.

Tupper and Lindsay were also charter members of “The Wednesday Group,” an association of liberal GOP House members who sought to offset the influence of GOP conservatives in Congress.

Tupper’s close ties to Rockefeller arose both from their shared ideology and from “Rocky’s” financial contributions to Tupper’s campaigns. Rockefeller admired Tupper’s personable leadership style and tapped him to be his New England campaign coordinator in his 1964 presidential bid. It was at this time that Tupper occasionally found himself at the same table with Rockefeller’s international affairs adviser, Austrian native Henry Kissinger. Tupper later recalled Rocky’s team “often kidded me about my Downeast accent, but did not seem to think Dr. Kissinger’s accent unusual.” Whether because of or despite such jibes, Tupper remained a key GOP supporter of civil rights legislation.

Tupper was so steadfast in his ideological commitments that when party conservatives led by Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater won the nomination, Tupper stood alone among Maine GOP leaders in refusing to endorse Goldwater. When Goldwater touched down at a Portland airport rally for his only Maine appearance in the fall campaign, among the signs that greeted him was a hand-drawn placard hoisted by a Tupper supporter that proclaimed, “Tupper Yes, Goldwater No!” The airport poster’s directive was also an omen for the way Mainers would soon vote, saying “yes” to Tupper for another term but “no” to Goldwater.

If ever there has been a month – besides that of the November election itself – that could be crowned the month of political surprise in Maine it would be the one we are now entering, March, the month both Sens. George Mitchell and William Cohen dropped their bombshell announcements of unexpected political retirements. Such was also the case in 1966, when in early March, Tupper, a shoo-in for a fourth term, announced he would not seek re-election.

Tupper’s sudden renunciation immediately unleashed a tsunami of seven GOP contenders who offered a fascinating portrait of the mid-1960s GOP spectrum in Maine. The two who were former state senators, Sanford pharmacist Ralph Lovell and insurance executive Ralph Brooks Jr., son of a popular former Portland police chief, were in the liberal Tupper mold. Thomaston state Rep. George Kittredge, a retired Navy officer, and Cedric Thomas, who owned a chain of auto supply stores, were conservatives. The controversial and recently dismissed head of Maine Maritime Academy, Frank Rodway – driven by a mission of personal vindication – and longtime educator Fred Halla seemed to defy conventional labels.

As well known an offering as most of these were, none could compete with the political prowess and name recognition of Peter Garland, who soon stepped into this congested array of eager pretenders to the First District throne. Though historically a conservative, Garland now adroitly downplayed ideology in his comeback effort. He based his appeal instead on his background as the only one with congressional experience, the candidate of competence. His ads touted him as one who would not have to “spend months learning the ropes.” At 43, the former four-term Saco mayor also still exuded a youthful, handsome image that had been an alloy of his previous political ventures.

Some 13,000, or 25 percent, of the primary voters gave Garland the edge he needed to win the nomination. The leading conservative, Kittredge, finished narrowly behind at 12,000. Brooks, the leading liberal, came in a close third at 11,000, trailed by the remaining four, who polled less than 4,500 apiece.

In the fall campaign, Garland failed in his attempt to distance himself from an overt ideology. That’s because his opponent was Peter Kyros. Though comparatively unknown and making his first bid for public office, Kyros was an intense Portland attorney who was a skillful and energetic speaker. With a rapid-fire oratorical fluency rarely seen before or since in any other Maine political campaigner, Kyros seldom missed an opportunity to remind voters of Garland’s conservative early 1960s congressional voting record. The Annapolis and Harvard Law educated Kyros frequently hammered home Garland’s historic differences with the popularly acclaimed Tupper, whose record Democrat Kyros endorsed even though Tupper was the outgoing GOP incumbent.

Thus confronted by his more philosophically ardent past by a tightly focused adversary, Garland wound up with a losing, though respectable, 45 percent of the November vote in what would be his fourth and last campaign for a Maine congressional seat.

Though neither Garland nor Tupper would again seek elective office, many years of Maine-based public service would still lie ahead for both. More on their distinguished post congressional emeritus careers in a future column.

Paul H. Mills is a Farmington attorney well known for his analyses and historical understanding of Maine’s political scene. He can be reached by e-mail: [email protected]

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