My absentee ballot arrived last Thursday. I mailed it back Friday. As a Democratic “activist,” I had no uncertainty about who I’d pick for U.S. Senate: independent Angus King. Many of my political friends, however, are still torn between party loyalty and the risk they recognize that a vote for Democrat Cynthia Dill will really be a vote for Republican Charlie Summers.

Cynthia Dill is a dedicated, experienced public servant. She and I share many of the same political values and instincts. But this year she is the Dennis Kucinich of our party: correct on the issues but without a snowball’s chance of being elected. We went down this road two years ago –- and we now have Gov. Paul LePage.

If the Republican candidate were Olympia Snowe, it might be a risk worth running. If the Democrats lost to her, we’d still have a moderate, thoughtful senator, capable on some issues of reaching a decision independent of her party. But she is not the candidate.

Summers instead typifies the crew of new far-right Republicans throughout the country running for the Senate. Most, like Summers, have sworn never to raise taxes, even on the super-rich, and seem contemptuous of large groups of our fellow citizens. They are unwilling to concede that human actions affect the safety of the environment and, woefully, are decades out of date on women’s issues.

(Todd Akin is now a fully rehabilitated member of the 2012 GOP Senate wannabes, not because he’s abandoned his “legitimate rape” anatomy lesson, but because the beyond-the-fringers have convinced their colleagues that a Republican brain is a Republican brain, no matter how small.)

This is a scary prospect. Think Supreme Court nominees, tax fairness, foreign policy, how people are treated and the role of the federal government. (We tried governing once before by letting the states have all the power under the Articles of Confederation. How did that turn out?) I’m not at the moment arguing the merits of any of these questions – -I’m just asking whether Maine Democrats should risk helping this gang win control of the Senate.

I could not have voted for King if I wasn’t convinced that he is decent, honest and intelligent. I remember him in office as a hard-working governor, easy to talk to, with an optimistic view of the future and wonderfully prescient about the value of laptop computers in schools. He would be a refreshing voice in Washington and as an independent would be able to broker solutions that break down some of the brick walls we call party lines.

Voting in Maine has started. It’s time for Democrats to look at the polls, and – to paraphrase former President Bill Clinton – to do some arithmetic.

Bill Sullivan, a long-standing Democratic activist, has lived in Bangor for 36 years.