House races shaping up

This morning, sources very close to Bangor Mayor Cary Weston (full disclosure, a friend of mine and somebody I greatly respect) informed me that Weston is seriously looking at running for congress in the second district, provided Senate President Kevin Raye steps out of the race in order to run for the now open contest for U.S. Senate.

This sets up a rather intriguing matchup, as state Senator Debra Plowman (full disclosure, Plowman is my old state rep and senator from my home town of Hampden, and is also somebody I have a great deal of respect for) has also taken out paperwork for a potential run.

Plowman, of course, is in Senate leadership and has run point on a number of very key pieces of legislation this term.  She has also had her hand in everything from recruiting, to political strategy for the party, and is widely looked upon as the strongest possible candidate.

But Weston, the young, brash, and very capable Mayor of Bangor, has quickly made a name for himself as a rising star – both as a politician, and within the Republican Party.  Having a political base in the Queen City is a very strong position with which to launch a congressional campaign (indeed, John Baldacci got his start on the Bangor city council), and he would be very formidable in both the primary and the general election.

On the Democratic side, all eyes are on minority leader Emily Cain.  Cain has already taken out paperwork for a potential run as well, and will likely be the consensus choice of Democrats to take up the mantle if (when) Mike Michaud formally submits his signatures and becomes a candidate for Senate.

Matt Dunlap, the previous front runner (I guess… who can even tell) for the Democratic nod for Senate, has expressed interest in running in the second district as well.  He is a more natural fit for the district as a somewhat conservative Democrat, but is nowhere near the dynamic personality Cain is, and has proven to be a lethargic, uninspiring Senate candidate.

If Raye stays in the House race and faces off with Cain (or Dunlap), the Republicans have to be considered the favorites for capturing the seat.  Raye has near universal name ID in the second district, has a visible post as a moderate counterbalance to Governor LePage, and has of course run before.  Those advantages will prove important against the much younger, less experienced Cain, who has not run a campaign larger than a Maine House of Representatives district (a constituency of roughly 8,000) to date.  She could certainly do well, but it would be an uphill climb for her, for sure.

If Raye jumps to the Senate, however, and Cain or Dunlap faces off with Weston or Plowman, that sets up a very competitive race that will be fascinating to watch.  Were I a betting man, I would still guess the Republicans would have a slight advantage in such a race, but to be perfectly honest, it could very easily go either way.

In the first district, Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney has reversed his earlier decision to not run, and has taken out paperwork to get into the race.  His entry is of course predicated on Pingree moving up to run for Senate, so don’t look for him to go the distance unless she moves on.

Courtney would be the highest profile entrant for the Republicans, but others have expressed interest.

The real interesting race is shaping up on the Democratic side, as a gargantuan list of candidates has begun preparing.  Each of the Democrats who were previously running for Senate – Hinck and fan favorite Cynthia Dill – have taken paperwork out for the House seat.  I am also told that Ethan Strimling is “getting the old gang together, and is serious”, and that 2008 contender Adam Cote is very serious as well.

They may be joined by Wellington Lyons, Mark Gartley, David Lamoine and David Costa, among others.  Don’t be surprised if that primary turns into ten or more people, given the attractiveness of the district for the Democratic party.

That sets up a likely race between Courtney and whatever bloody, wounded, barely living carcass of a candidate emerges from the Democratic primary.  Courtney is not to be underestimated, in his Senate races he has performed very well in some left leaning areas of his district, and whoever the winner of the Democratic primary is will likely be fairly weak (just given the list of names), so this could shape up to be a race to watch.  You would still have to give the advantage to the Democratic nominee, just based on the nature of the district, but it will be competitive at least.

All of these names are just the tip of the iceberge – there are dozens more that I haven’t mentioned.  We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop, to find out if Michaud, Pingree, or both are going to give up their seats.

If they both make a go at it, this will be the most interesting election cycle in memory.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.