Herbert Hoffman is an affable, intelligent and engaged citizen. A retired psychologist, he won an election once: for the charter review committee in Ogunquit, an effort which he chaired.

(And, he says, completed on schedule.)

And while municipal charter reviews are important work, such experience is not the stuff United States senators are made of. The ex-Democrat turned independent Senate candidate Hoffman is as much a threat to the senatorial aspirations of Democratic Rep. Tom Allen as a traffic cone is to a tractor-trailer.

Yet this hasn’t stopped Maine Democrats from trying to stop him, by arguing the signatures Hoffman gathered for his nominating petition are invalid. This is an argument the party has – so far – lost. The secretary of state and a Superior Court Justice have ruled Hoffman belongs on the ballot, alongside Allen and Collins.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will now hear the case.

Trying to discredit a minor, fringe candidate such as Hoffman doesn’t make the Democrats appear, well, very democratic. Even the party which prides itself on inclusiveness, diversity and political enfranchisement can get prickly when somebody mucks with their star player.

All of this proves the lengths Democrats are going to send Sen. Susan Collins packing.

When Howard Dean visited Lewiston recently, he appealed to the Democratic faithful in Kennedy Park to offer up their spare rooms, cots and closet space for campaign operatives coming to Maine to stump for Allen.

The Allen-Collins campaign has also smashed fundraising records; with five months until Election Day, each candidate’s treasury is well-stocked. Collins maintains a slight lead over Allen, with $6.6 million to his $4.7 million.

Where has all this money come from? If one thing is for certain, it hasn’t been from bean suppers at the local Grange. The national implications of an important Senate race have opened coffers countrywide – for both sides.

So the money answer? It’s coming from everywhere.

This just increases the pressure. High enough, it seems, for a political party to go against the grain of its principles, such as what has occurred with Hoffman, a disaffected Democrat who left the party in January.

Hoffman dropped his D because of feelings the Democratic Party has a troubling tendency to marginalize fringe candidacies, just like his. (Wonder where he gets that idea?)

The party can still redeem itself, though, by treating Hoffman fairly from here forward. When there’s a candidate debate, for example, support his inclusion. Hoffman has earned his equal consideration.

For the Democratic Party to win this campaign, they will have to beat Collins.

For democratic principles to win in this campaign, Hoffman should also have the chance.

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