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Ethan: Last week we promised readers some insight into which Republicans might run for governor, should former Gov. Paul LePage turn out to be “all talk radio” when it comes to running against Gov. Janet Mills (or someone else, should she decide against a second term).
Phil: LePage, who is in a class by himself, will be the biggest factor in deciding whether anyone else gets in. If he runs, he will be the Republican nominee.
Ethan: Well, for all his talk, he has yet to raise a penny or even register as a candidate, so I assume it is just his attempt to get headlines. Let’s assume for this column that he doesn’t run.
Phil: Assuming a Republican primary without LePage to challenge Mills, we will have the old guard, newcomers, and a few wild cards.
Ethan: Do tell.
Phil: The old guard have long public service records and know how the government engine runs. People like former Senate Presidents Michael Thibodeau and Rick Bennett. You can also include former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and former state Rep. Jean Ginn Marvin, turned successful hospitality entrepreneur.
Ethan: As far as Republicans go, I have always found Bennett to be somewhat reasonable. Although he was a Trump elector in 2016, he also hates Central Maine Power and is willing to challenge the corporate governance of Wall Street. I don’t get much fire from Thibodeau or Ginn Marvin. As for Poliquin, he must be kicking himself that he didn’t run against Rep. Jared Golden last year. With Trump winning the 2nd Congressional District by almost 8 points, and Poliquin being Trump’s number 1 fan in Maine, he might have actually taken our Golden in that district.
Ethan: “Up and comers?” Two of your three are over 50.
Phil: Stop your age-discrimination. Oh, that’s right, progressives don’t label.
Ethan: Ha, just pointing out that your party leans a little long in the tooth when the next generation looks like you and me.
Phil: And then there are the Wild Cards. Kevin Hancock has a successful track record of running his sixth-generation family forest products business and has considered running from time to time. And then there is Rick Savage, the owner of Sunday River Brewing, who has a running battle with Mills over the COVID protocols and operating his restaurant.
Ethan: After Trump, hopefully Maine is done having business people with no political experience holding executive offices.
Phil: And then there is former state Rep. Dale Crafts.
Ethan: Good personal story, but the only reason Crafts did so well in the general election is because he tied himself so closely to Trump. Without Trump on the ticket (please God!), it is hard to see how Crafts wins on his own.
Phil: I wouldn’t ever count Crafts out after all he has overcome. But that primary brings up another name, Adrienne Bennett, former communications director to LePage. She would energize the base and appeal to independents in a general election. She composed herself very well for a first run.
Ethan: Yes, I actually thought Bennett was going to win that primary. Apparently six years of service to LePage didn’t garner much loyalty in return. What about Eric Brakey? Third time the charm?
Phil: No, he’s not on my list. I think his time has come and gone for statewide office. He couldn’t overcome the progressive leanings in Portland. A moderate Republian might. Not an arch conservative like Brakey.
Ethan: What about the former mayor of Waterville?
Phil: We already ruled LePage out.
Ethan: Not that former mayor. The most recent former mayor, Nick Isgro.
Phil: He would be an attractive candidate. Good record in Waterville revitalizing downtown and standing up to the ultra left. But he declared himself “fully retired from politics” and I believe him.
Ethan: OK, time to pick your top contenders like I picked mine last week.
Phil: Battle of the Bennetts. Rick versus Adrienne. With the elder winning.
Ethan: Bold! And if Mills runs again, it would be Franklin County vs Oxford County. Not sure we have seen someone in the Blaine House who had formerly represented more moose than voters since the 19th century.
Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.