Frary marches on, despite GOP snubs

Posted Oct. 21, 2008, at 8:55 p.m.

Self-proclaimed contrarian John Frary is feeling snubbed by his own political party.

The Republican candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and his staff believe that in at least two incidents — including last week’s visit to Bangor by the party’s vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — the GOP’s leadership has “overlooked” him.

The campaign believes that when Palin took the stage at Bangor International Airport on Thursday, Frary should have been among the candidates to share the stage with her. He wasn’t, according to Robert Shaffer, Frary’s chief campaign consultant, because he wasn’t invited to be, despite several requests.

Shaffer and Frary responded to the apparent snubs with bravura.

“I think they are worried about the fact that he speaks his mind,” Shaffer said Tuesday of the attitude of party officials toward Frary. “I think it helps us.

“People are not looking for a regular Republican, a bland mediocrity. We are after Democratic votes,” Shaffer added. “This is the worst Republican brand year in history. A little independence goes a long way. He is not kissing anybody’s posterior.”

Frary said his frankness, rebelliousness and keen interest in speaking to voters as intelligent people — not barraging them with nifty sound bites — might be his undoing within his own party.

“I don’t know their script. I am not interested in their script,” Frary said. “Maybe they think I am a loose cannon. Maybe they fear what cannot be controlled.”

Maine GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Webber said in an e-mail statement that Republicans were proud and delighted to have Frary attend the Palin rally “in the VIP section of the audience which included elected officials and key volunteers” and that the party’s chairman recognized him from the podium.

“Sarah Palin’s visit was all about Maine Republicans showing their support for Senator McCain and Governor Palin,” Webber wrote.

Shaffer responded that several candidates and noncandidates were on the podium, but not Frary, and the recognition came before he was in the audience.

Shaffer sent an e-mail to state GOP Chairman Mark Ellis on Friday expressing his displeasure and seeking an explanation. He has yet to receive a reply, he said.

“How hard would it have been to just have John on the stage — somewhere? He has worked tirelessly across this state for his chance to be elected,” Shaffer wrote. “He is a serious candidate, an intelligent candidate and a candidate that knocked the socks off the incumbent at last night’s debate at Colby.”

Shaffer added: “I was already extremely upset with the lack of support for this candidate from the state committee, but yet even a simple stage presence was not accommodated and at a cost of nothing to the state committee.”

A Farmington selectman, political columnist and retired college history professor with a master’s degree from Rutgers University, Frary has acknowledged himself to be an underdog in the race against Democratic incumbent Michael Michaud of East Millinocket. Michaud, who seeks his fourth term in office, won 71 percent of the vote in 2006, crushing Republican Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon.

Frary, 67, lists among his priorities improving medical facilities for veterans, especially in the district’s remote areas; improving efficiency at state universities and colleges; cutting government spending; and, though he regards it with many misgivings, bailing Wall Street out of the present financial crisis.

He advocates legalizing marijuana, is a sharp critic of the country’s war on drugs and has promised he would donate his salary to causes he espouses — stances anathema to his party. He speculates that he might have offended Republican leaders with a self-deprecating joke when he told Todd Palin during Palin’s recent visit to Maine that if his wife ever gets a hankering “for someone older, a little fatter and more decrepit,” she should look him up.

He also might have been too uncomfortably insightful, Frary said, when he described Todd Palin’s function as “surrogate, the man who stands behind the woman.”

Still, Frary has spent about $300,000 of his own money on his candidacy and sees a hopeful sign in his campaign’s receiving about $1,000 a day in donations in recent weeks.

Frary has crisscrossed his district, the largest east of the Mississippi, with a full campaign schedule. After a 9 a.m. stop today at a legislative breakfast in Ellsworth, he will be at the Westcott Forge Restaurant in Blue Hill at 5 p.m.

On Thursday he plans to participate in a candidates debate at the University of Maine at Farmington; greet voters at Dysart’s Truck Stop in Hermon at 3 p.m.; and at Downeast Community Hospital in Machias at 7 p.m., where he will participate in a rally to reform health care.

Frary doggedly pursues his campaign, he said, because he believes that all candidates should have their beliefs tested and all voters given a proper choice.

“I thought my major objective would be to educate people with ideas,” Frary said, “so that win or lose, my ideas take root and influence people.”

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