Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling, BDN Agree to Disagree bloggers. Credit: Gabor Degre | BDN

Ethan: What do you know about the three folks running for Congress in the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District?

Phil: Dale Crafts is a successful businessman who overcame a paralyzing injury that put him in a wheelchair. Adrienne Bennett worked her way out of considerable poverty to serve as one of Gov. Paul LePage’s most trusted allies. And Eric Brakey was the youngest state senator in the country when he took down a seasoned Democrat.

Ethan: And all three of them seem to be falling all over themselves to prove their MAGA credentials.

Phil: You may not have noticed in the People’s Republic of Portland, but Republicans on Main Street in CD2 are pretty happy with how President Donald Trump has handled the economy, immigration, and appointing conservative justices.

Ethan: But in the end, these three are going to have to appeal to a general electorate that isn’t pleased with Trump. How will they walk that line?

Phil: You mean like Rep. Jared Golden did by voting both to impeach and not impeach Trump? Haven’t seen that kind of wanting-it-both-ways since Sen. John Kerry famously said he voted to fund the Iraq War before he voted against it.

Ethan: While I strongly disagree with Golden’s vote not to impeach the president on the obstruction of Congress charge, his vote splitting was not unprecedented. A similarly young congressman named Bill Cohen did the same against Richard Nixon in 1975.

Phil: Allow me to paraphrase what the late Sen. Lloyd Bentson said to Vice President Dan Quayle, “ Congressman Golden, you are no Bill Cohen.” Cohen stood up to his own party and put our country first. That is not what Golden did.

Ethan: You digress.

Phil: Tell me what the race looks like from your rose-colored eyes?

Ethan: Brakey has the best name ID from his strong run against Sen. Angus King in 2018. Crafts has the best personal story of triumph over adversity. And Bennett has shown the most energy in terms of campaigning.

Phil: What I like about the race is the diversity of choices. From age to gender to experience, these three give everyone a chance to see how broad the umbrella is in the Republican Party.

Ethan: Unfortunately there isn’t much diversity of opinion. All three are anti-choice, pro-wall, and stooges for the NRA. I know plenty of Republicans who don’t fit in those boxes. In fact, I believe I am speaking with one right now.

Phil: Was that a compliment I just heard? I have every confidence that the Grand Old Party has three capable people who can and will represent all Mainers when they get to Congress.

Ethan: So, what’s your preference/prediction?

Phil: My preference would be Crafts. I really like the combination of his personal story, his success in business, and his public service at both the local level and in the Maine Legislature. In terms of who I think will win, I would put my money on Brakey because his name ID and grassroots network are simply too deep to overcome.

Ethan: I actually think Bennett is the sleeper in this race and she will take the prize. She is pretty well-known from her TV days and her connection to LePage can only help. Plus, she is working harder than the other two combined.

The death of our friend

Ethan: Sad news about our friend and former colleague Speaker John Richardson. Beyond his children, whom he talked about every time I spoke with him, his legacy will be his fight for working people. He always wanted to make sure workers got their fair share.

Phil: He and I served together a little over 20 years ago. It was only one term together, and although he was a newbie, you knew he was going to make his mark. Who knew all those years later he and I would spend a couple of years debating issues on live TV.

Ethan: One of my favorite stories of John was when a representative in New Hampshire put in a bill to annex Kittery, and I retaliated with one annexing Portsmouth.

Phil: You wanted that tollbooth revenue to grow government, didn’t you?

Ethan: You know me so well. Obviously, I put my bill in tongue-in-cheek. Well, John didn’t like that. Although he had a great sense of humor, he told me in no uncertain terms that the work we did in Augusta was serious business. He was right of course, and I pulled the bill.

Phil: Politics aside, if John’s death doesn’t remind you to hug your loved ones every day, I don’t know what will.

Ethan: Amen to that.

Phil Harriman served as a town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth. Ethan Strimling served as mayor and state senator from Portland.