May 20, 2018
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Maine’s political Olympians: Angus King as Usain Bolt, Susan Collins as Tiki Gelana

By Robert Long, BDN Staff

Mainers have appeared more interested in the Olympic Games than in politics over the last two weeks, spurring a new game: Link key players in Maine politics with major figures at the London Olympics.

In the spirit of the Olympics, this exercise strives to improve the human condition, not denigrate any of the players. No medals will be awarded and no taxes assessed. Readers are invited to play along at home.

Congressional delegation

Sen. Olympia Snowe: Queen Elizabeth II

Like the queen, Snowe can claim a long career in public life. Both matriarchal figures eschew partisanship, and that “enough already” expression the queen delivered at the opening ceremonies mirrors the countenance of Snowe in deciding to grant herself a pardon from the gridlock in Washington.

Sen. Susan Collins: Tiki Gelana, women’s marathon champion

With more than 5,000 consecutive roll-call votes under her belt, Collins certainly embodies the endurance of a champion long-distance runner.

Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District: Erick Barrondo, silver medal, 20-kilometer walk

The odd sport of race walking requires a “herky jerky” gait, which also could describe Michaud’s campaign style. Like Barrondo, who won Guatemala’s first-ever Olympic medal, Michaud relies on stamina borne from living in a hard place to represent his people.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District: Katherine Grainger, gold medal, women’s double scull

Buoyed by the advantage of incumbency and a powerful partner, Pingree, like the veteran rower Grainger, dubbed by many to be the United Kingdom’s pre-Olympics poster child, faces pressure to fulfill high prerace expectations.

The challengers for Congress

Angus King: Usain Bolt, sprinter, multiple gold medal winner

While it’s tempting to equate the former governor and independent U.S. Senate candidate with LeBron “King” James of the U.S. men’s basketball “Dream Team,” sprint champion Usain Bolt seems a better match. As is the case when Bolt takes to the track, everybody’s chasing King at this juncture in the race.

Charlie Summers: Deniss Cerkovskis, modern pentathlon

Modern pentathlon, a sport in which Gen. George Patton participated when it made its Olympic debut 100 years ago, seems well suited for a man with Summers’ military background. Like Cerkovskis, a Latvian competing in his fourth Olympics, Summers shows resilience. After running unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004 and 2008, and for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, he’s back on the ballot for U.S. Senate this year.

Cynthia Dill: Rand Al-Mashhadani, archery
Like Al-Mashhadani, who is the first Iraqi woman to qualify for Olympic archery, Dill is an underdog ready for a fight. The Democratic contender for U.S. Senate has her eye on the mark and, like Al-Mashhadani, even if she doesn’t win, has the time and will to come back fiercer.

Steve Woods, Danny Dalton and Andrew Ian Dodge: independent Olympic athletes

Like the four nationless athletes who marched in this year’s opening ceremony under the banner “Independent Olympic Athletes,” these three unenrolled candidates for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Snowe managed to qualify for the competition but stand little chance of winning.

Kevin Raye: Vincent Hancock, gold medal in skeet shooting

With his new designation as one of the National Congressional Republican Committee’s “Young Guns” in his race against Michaud, Raye’s Olympic counterpart has to be a shooting champion.

Jon Courtney: Michael Tinsley, silver medal, 400-meter hurdles

Running against Pingree, a well-funded incumbent, and after jumping into the race just weeks before the deadline to submit nomination signatures, Courtney must clear many hurdles. Like Tinsley, he hopes to prove that an underdog can finish in the money.

State House

Gov. Paul LePage: Teddy Riner, judo gold medalist

Like the gold medal-winning judoka from France, LePage disdains finesse and goes right at any and all opponents. They’re both reigning champs.

Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake: Michael Phelps, swimmer, record holder for most medals

Despite controversies in their past, they both keep winning.

The London Olympics end Sunday. Let the real games begin.

Robert Long is a political analyst for the Bangor Daily News.

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