May 22, 2018
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Countdown begins on snarky campaigns

By Kent Ward

As Mainers order out for pizza and kick back with an adult beverage in hand to watch televised election results late into Tuesday night, their main concern likely will be the five-way gubernatorial race that polls show Republican Paul LePage of Waterville leading by a substantial margin over independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell.

But they will have more than passing interest, as well, in the outcome of congressional elections which experts predict will result in Republicans regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives and dramatically improving their lot in the Senate.

National news coverage has been concentrated on a baker’s dozen of states where particularly snarky campaigns are playing out, pretty much ignoring one of the more interesting dramas unfolding in Alaska. There, things turned ugly long ago in the U.S. Senate race between tea party-backed Republican candidate Joe Miller and the Republican incumbent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, running as a write-in candidate after losing to Miller in an August primary. Polls show the two candidates running about even with the Democratic candidate trailing.

The Alaska Elections Division has reportedly prepared its staff attorneys for a likely inevitable postelection showdown over whether ballots with Murkowski’s name misspelled should be counted.

“If you thought the battle in 2000 [between presidential candidates Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore] over ‘hanging chads’ in Florida was a thrill, you’ll love Alaska’s possible forthcoming dispute over misspelled write-in ballots for Republican Sen. Lisa Murkouski … Merkosky … Murkowski,’’ online reporter Chris Moody wrote on the website

The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that ballots with a candidate’s surname misspelled can count if a clear attempt to vote for the candidate was made. Thus, “Murkouski” or thereabouts presumably would be considered close enough for government work, as the saying goes.

I’m guessing that many Alaska voters who enter the voting booth on Tuesday intent on voting for Murkowski will, before the process is completed, wish the woman had been named Jane Doe. On the other hand, I suppose they might be grateful that she isn’t a staunch hyphenated feminist married to Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and lugging around the industrial-strength moniker Lisa Murkowski-Krzyzewski.

Political junkies in a befuddled electorate have watched with a mixture of disgust and morbid curiosity as television cameras have captured outrageous moments in expensive down-and-dirty campaigns involving candidates for election at all levels of government throughout the republic.

Many who seek public office have chosen the low road of negative advertising and scare tactics to exploit an air of anger and hopelessness that seems to dominate the land in lockstep with deep recession and rampant high unemployment. Some of the ads have amused, but in those, as well as in the many more that have dripped venom and implied sinister intent on the part of the opposition, truth has often been the first casualty.

In some instances, campaign volunteers have run amok, unbeknownst to the candidate. One of several well-chronicled outbursts of such ugliness occurred in Kentucky, where a female protester at a political event was tackled and wrestled to the sidewalk by a campaign volunteer and had her face stepped on by a second worker. The latter was subsequently cashiered by the candidate and may be in trouble with the law. In several states where early voting has taken place there is talk of scandal and fraud, perhaps a ploy to lay grounds for a recount should the voting be close.

Voters in Florida whose names were recorded as having voted via absentee ballot in a local election say they never voted. In Nevada and North Carolina, early voters who wanted to vote for the Republican candidate have claimed that the voting machines were programmed to register their vote for the Democratic candidate. Election officials said that was nonsense, that such a thing could not possibly have happened in this enlightened age. The voters involved said they did not appreciate being called liars.

So far, there are no reports of phantom votes having come from the cemetery or the telephone book in certain jurisdictions with a reputation for calling upon such constituencies in a pinch. But there are still three days to go.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at

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