Mills Looks to 2010
An article in the Boston Globe recently explained that "It's early, of course — ridiculously early — for anyone except potential candidates to be thinking about the next presidential race." The writer then went on to discuss why Mitt Romney may have the best chance among the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls.
I'm going to show the same kind of lack of restraint today, by noting that it's still 15 months until even the 2010 gubernatorial primaries, much less the actual election, and that no one should be talking about the race. That being said, let's talk about it.
One politician who's on everyone's list is State Senator Peter Mills, who was also a candidate for the 2006 Republican nomination. He came in second to Chandler Woodock, who lost to Baldacci in the general. Mills also has a good sense of Maine history, derived in part from his membership in one of the state's most politically-connected families. I figured he might be a good person to put the 2010 contest in context.
"It looks a lot like 1994," said Mills. "I think it's going to be a wide open and chaotic process on both sides of the aisle."
Mills will likely be part of the mix. "Oh yeah," he says when asked if he's planning a run. "I haven't been coy about that."
1994 was another open seat election and eight Republicans and five Democrats threw their hat in the ring. Susan Collins won the Republican nomination with only 21% of the vote and little momentum. Joe Brennan easily won the Democratic nomination over Tom Allen, but both eventually lost to an independent candidate, Angus King, who spent a good deal of his own money to win the race.
Mills thinks a similar scenario could easily happen again, and that a self-funding candidate in either party (or no party) could "buy" the Blaine House in 2010.
"It's going to be a very tempting thing for someone who has disposable money to step in," said Mills. "Even a relatively small amount of money, on either side, could make the difference."
Mills points to the lower individual contribution limits and the lack of money in the clean elections fund as factors that may exacerbate the situation.
Mills is known for being a moderate Republican, and he hold some views that make him anathema to the party's conservative wing, but he dismisses the suggestion that he would run as an independent.
"Sure it's a consideration, but you always prefer to be the leader of a party," said Mills. "There's more strength from which to govern."
"Frankly, the party could use some leadership, and I'd take pleasure in providing it," said Mills.
Having already participated in one gubernatorial campaign, Mills' public policy stances are pretty well-known. I did, however, check in on a couple current issues.
Mills thinks gay marriage is an issue that should be decided by the voters, not the legislature, and that the bill will likely pass the legislature (if not this session, then sometime soon).
He's still against TABOR, even the revamped version. "The TABOR movement is something whose time has come and gone, if it ever had a time," said Mills. "We already have restrictions where we need them."
When I asked if he would resurrect his 12-point plan for 2010, Mills guaranteed it. "My thoughts have shifted a little bit, so I'll probably amend it in some fashion, but It'll still be 12. That's a great number."
For now, Mills is trying to ignore the governor's race and focus on his duties as a state senator. He says he's working to oppose the "pablum" he's heard within the caucus about "flexing our muscles as the minority." He thinks that, instead, Republicans in the legislature should be finding ways to work with the Democratic majority and the governor in order to get things done for the state.
In that vein, he's circulating a document to his caucus containing nine "rants" on issues like energy, drugs and higher education that they should take action on. If they don't, he predicts that the Maine legislature will become a "passive, reactive and impotent body."
In other Maine political news this week...
Governor Baldacci gave his State of the State.
Republicans in the legislature liked it.
Snowe and Collins are not big Rush Limbaugh fans.
Legislators on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee are considering "a AAA card for the woods".
Evert Fowle wants to be Maine's U.S. Attorney.
Budget recommendations will go to the Appropriations Committee next week.
The Attorney General's office has launched an investigation of potentially shady investment practices by a company entrusted with the state's college savings fund.