I’m a little sad this morning. It’s not a personal sadness. Nothing has happened in my family to cause grief. But in just a couple of short days my hopes for the Republican Party to field a fine candidate to run for the First Congressional District House seat have been shattered.
It began on a small note Monday, but I thought it was just a glitch and would soon disappear; it hasn’t and the chances it will are diminishing rapidly. Newcomer Dean Scontras and political veteran Charles Summers are vying for the nomination. Scontras hasn’t been in politics before, but he claims to be of the Ronald Reagan mold as a Conservative. Summers has just returned from a tour of duty as a Naval Reserve Officer in Iraq. Summers, a moderate, is also a veteran Maine politician having served in the Maine Legislature and having worked for Senator Olympia Snowe.
All early indications were that we had two fine men with opposing philosophies running for the Congressional seat. Maine could have been proud if either of them ultimately were elected. All the time Summers was in Iraq, his wife Ruth held the fort. She travelled throughout the First District extolling the virtues of her husband. Military rules prohibited Summers himself to do any campaigning or commenting. She maintained that high road and has been highly praised for the way she ran the campaign.
Scontras too maintained the high road. He too travelled all over the First District explaining that if elected he would serve in the Reagan tradition. His popularity grew and the number of people, including many business and political leaders, who jumped onto his bandwagon grew right along with that popularity.
Last week Summers arrived home with his tour of duty behind him. He could now campaign and comment on the issues facing us. Many of us very outsiders looked forward to a spirited good debate between the two men. We would be able to hear to good gentlemen explain to us why we should vote for one of them.
Just what caused the downturn of events is unclear to me this morning. It depends on who is telling the story. The first inkling I had of trouble on the Republican front was the report of an advertisement sponsored by Scontras highly criticizing Summers’ vote in 1991 when Maine had a huge tax increase. I have not heard that ad to this day.
Last Tuesday I attended a session sponsored by the Cumberland County Republican Committee held in Scarborough. I call it a session rather than a debate because some wimpy questions were put forth and the candidates loosely responded to them but mostly took advantage to give their views. Only toward the end did that ad get mentioned. Summers said it didn’t tell the truth because it didn’t tell the whole story. Scontras said it was truthful because Summers had voted for the largest tax increase in Maine history.
I had attended that session because I didn’t know for whom I’d vote in three weeks when the primary is held. I was not awed by either candidate except I did leave believing the Republicans would have a good candidate no matter which won. I still didn’t know for whom I’d vote.
Now Summers had come out with his own ad highly criticizing Scontras for not being in Maine for the last several years. It is true, but he was born in Maine and graduated from the University of Maine before he left to earn his fortune. He has now chosen his native state as his home. Summers was born in Illinois. I’m not sure it’s ever been explained why he came to Maine to live, except he says it was a simple choice.
The nastiness is escalating. Yesterday Summers sent an e-mail to Republicans again criticizing Scontras’ ad and added that he, Summers, was leading in the polls. This was the first I’d heard of a poll in this race, if there was a poll. I received a postal mail yesterday from Scontras again criticizing Summers tax increase votes.
I honestly don’t like the direction of these campaigns. I had believed either would be a good representative. Now I’m beginning to have my doubts. I still have a couple of weeks to straighten all this out in my mind, but negative campaigning won’t endear either to me.
A few days ago I criticized sniping and negative campaigning. I’ll say it again: Don’t tell me why the other guy is bad; tell me why you are good. I’m afraid this won’t be my last word.
By the way, there’s an interesting article in this morning’s Portland Press Herald and on its Internet site, PressHerald.Mainetoday.com, about the change in this race.
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