Two of the happiest people in the state of Maine today might just be Hannah Pingree and Rosa Scarcelli.
Oh, sure – their political party just got devastated state wide (except for in the congressional races), but something very important just happened with the victories of Republicans, well, everywhere. All of their (serious) potential competition in the future for state wide offices just disappeared.
Because Republicans swept the entire state, they now have the ability to do something they haven’t done in decades. Namely, to posses every single major office in the state of Maine.
There will be a Republican Governor of Maine. There will be a Republican Senate President. There will be a Republican Speaker of the House. Key offices in the state are actually appointed by the legislature, and those positions will now be held by Republicans. That would mean a Republican Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor and State Treasurer.
The only Democratic leaders left in the state of any significant stature are the two congressional representatives (who both seem perfectly content where they are), and the now minority leaders of the Maine Senate and Maine House.
This was always one of the most challenging problems for the Maine Republican Party. If you want to run credible candidates for Governor, Congress or the United States Senate, typically you would like to have a “bench” of qualified, well known people who have served in a high profile job serving the entire state. Having a Republican Attorney General or State Senate President running against say Congressman Mike Michaud in 2004 or 2006 or 2008 would have certainly given us a much more competitive race, and prevented Michaud from becoming an institution in the state.
The unchallenged Democratic bench has been their biggest advantage for decades. They have had an unbroken line of leaders shifting through the various high profile leadership roles, which then prepared them for runs at higher office. Libby Mitchell was both Senate President and Speaker of the House, beating Steve Rowe, the Attorney General for the nomination. Chellie Pingree was the Senate Majority Leader. Mike Michaud was Senate President.
This deep bench for Democrats is now gone, at least for now. This means that future competition for the big state wide offices for other high profile Democrats is much thinner.
So why did I bring up Hannah Pingree and Rosa Scarcelli? Well, Pingree is the last high level leader of the Democratic Party who is both viable as a candidate for higher office, and openly interested in running for something. Scarcelli, while an outsider, made a strong showing in the primary this year and has been quite open about wanting to run again for something in the future. These two women are likely to be the names you seen running for things under the Democratic ticket in either 2012 or 2014.
And for the Republicans? For what seems like eons, Maine Republicans have been fishing for quality candidates in the business community, or in the ranks of advisers to Maine’s previously most successful Republicans, Senators Snowe and Collins. There has been almost exclusively political outsiders running for virtually every office. Consider:
- The great majority of the 2010 Republicans running for Governor were complete outsiders and business men
- 2010 nominee for Congress in ME-01, Dean Scontras, is a businessman
- 2010 nominee for Congress in ME-02, Jason Levesque, is a businessman
- 2008 nominee for Congress in ME-02, John Frary, is a retired college professor
- 2006 nominee for Congress in ME-02, Scott D’Amboise, is a small businessman
- 2002 nominee for Governor, Peter Cianchette, is a businessman (although at one point was a state Representative)
I could go on and on. The nominees fielded by Republicans in the races I didn’t list were mostly state legislators, and not very well known ones.
Long story short here: the Republicans now have an opportunity, if they can maintain this advantage in the legislature for a while, to start generating an actual bench of quality candidates that can step up and run for office. This will be important if the party ever wants to take back either of Maine’s congressional seats, and have a crop ready for the retirement of either Senator Snowe or Collins, whenever that may come.
And for Democrats? There was already a deficit of strong Democratic leadership in the state, and now that bench of talent gets significantly thinner. Look for a very different crop of Democratic candidates running for office in the near term, and also look for leaders like Pingree and Scarcelli to be the face of the Democratic Party moving forward.