Jim Fossel: Parties challenged to recruit 2022 Maine State House candidates


Now that both sides have released their initial proposals for new Maine House (or Senate, at least) districts and the pandemic-delayed redistribution process is drawing to a close, both sides can turn their attention to the first. phase of the 2022 campaign: recruitment of candidates.

Normally, this initial phase of the campaign would have started months ago, but it’s hard to convince potential candidates to run when they don’t know what their district will look like. The recruitment process was of course not completely frozen: the two big parties were at least able to focus again on encouraging their incumbents. This still sets the candidate field for a good chunk of the map, although the redistribution has the potential to throw two incumbents into the same district, creating a messy situation for everyone.

Yet even without the chaos and uncertainty that is still caused by the redistribution, both major parties face recruiting challenges this year. One is shared by both: the growing political polarization that continues to divide the country and find its way into Maine. This political climate makes it more difficult for parties to find good candidates (especially for the state legislature) for a number of different reasons. On the one hand, as politics have become more and more controversial, it has also become more and more personal. Personal attacks have become worrisome. Professional politicians may be used to this, but for the first-time candidate who has never had his feet in water before, it may be enough to deter them from taking the plunge.

The inability of both parties to work together and do a lot of things can also deter people from showing up. When less and less is done in Augusta, it can be difficult to persuade people to bother to run for the legislature. It can be easy to assume that this phenomenon will be more disheartening for members of the minority party, but it can also affect potential majority candidates, especially if they are not interested in governing on a purely partisan basis. This makes it harder for both parties to find candidates interested in actually governing, leaving fewer centrists in the running and fewer competitive constituencies.

This is one of the ways that the growing partisan divide is a self-fulfilling phenomenon that builds on itself: It sets up an increasingly destructive campaign cycle that is difficult to break. We can all see this pattern every day in the growing reluctance of voters to consider not only different points of view, but also basic facts that contradict their partisan assumptions. It’s one thing to embark on a tough and mean campaign to get things done, but it’s another to do it without the prospect of concrete results afterwards.

The two main parties in Maine are not only fighting among themselves these days, but also among themselves. Comedian Will Rogers may have once joked, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat, ”but in Maine, Democrats have been the most organized of the major parties in recent times.

Democrats in Maine haven’t seen a major upheaval in a primary in recent years; in fact, most of their recent candidates for high office either met no opposition in the primaries or won them easily. Democrats have been united and disciplined, doing a much better job of avoiding feuds within the party than Republicans in Maine. That has worsened slightly in recent times: Governor Mills has vetoed bills supported by members of the legislative branch, and there has been an ongoing battle between the progressive and moderate wings of the party. In the past, Democrats have been more successful in resolving these disputes behind closed doors; now they are in the open. It can be confusing and overwhelming for first-time applicants.

Republicans in Maine have even more public and energetic fights right now. Right now, many Conservative activists seem more interested in rehashing the last election than preparing for the next, and it will certainly have a negative impact on recruiting if it continues. If Republicans continue to focus more on testing individual loyalty to Donald Trump than winning the election, that doesn’t bode well for them. This is not a good position to recruit candidates, as leaders cannot guarantee that candidates will not be blocked by their own party. Ultimately, whatever party is able to overcome these challenges and launch with the most candidates, it will start with a huge advantage in the battle for control of the legislature.

Jim Fossel, a Conservative activist for Gardiner, worked for Senator Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @jimfossel

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