The two Republicans competing for the chance to replace U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in Congress differ on the subject of debates.
Ande Smith, an engineer, lawyer and U.S. Navy Reserve officer from North Yarmouth, and Mark Holbrook, a clinical psychologist and former police officer from Brunswick, have not had many meetings leading up to the June 14 primary when Republicans will select a candidate in the First District.
“I’ve said for a long time that I won’t debate another Republican,” Holbrook said in an interview. “I won’t turn this primary season into a circus sideshow.”
Smith has criticized his opponent for his failure to debate.
Holbrook holds a Ph.D in clinical psychology, and is a former police officer who focuses on counseling law enforcement personnel. Smith, a former Navy officer, has served on submarines out of Pearl Harbor and has had many international assignments as a reservist. (He is also the husband of Julie McDonald-Smith, who has been a columnist for The Forecaster.)
Holbrook labels Smith as the establishment candidate, and Smith has raised more money, $111,000 to Holbrook’s $24,000. Smith’s coffers have been boosted by contributions from attorneys at Pierce Atwood, where he formerly helped companies navigate environmental and other regulations. His website boasts endorsements from 25 Republican legislators.
The two candidates inhabit a ruptured Republican Party, where the faithful are dealing with the Presidential challenge of Donald Trump, whose nasty campaign annihilated his primary opponents. Smith and Holbrook both plan to back the party’s “presumptive” nominee.
Holbrook says he is willing to hold his nose and vote for anyone with an “R” after his name.
“Back when 17 candidates were running, I thought you could put them in a bag and shake them, and any two that came out could be president and vice president, and you could put the rest in the Cabinet,” said Holbrook, who was impressed with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and the demeanor of Ben Carson.
Smith will accept Trump as the alternative to what he sees as the disaster of the Democratic options.
“Whoever the Republican nominee is, Hillary Clinton is so devoid of moral character, and Bernie Sanders would destroy free market capitalism and promote the mothering socialist state,” he said.
On the issues, the candidates have similar positions. On climate change, they are skeptical that the present science proves a strong human involvement in the warming temperatures.
“I am a man of science,” Holbrook said. “I think the science in this case has been manipulated, and the results written in a way to skew in favor of conclusions about global warming. “
Smith also is unconvinced, warning that “we better be sure of the causes before we undertake a fundamental transformation of the economy.”
Both candidates step back from the hard-line position on abortion that was advanced by most of the Republican presidential candidates, and accept a woman’s right to choose in most circumstances.
And both men oppose a proposal for a Maine Woods National Park, on land that Roxanne Quimby wants to donate east of Baxter State Park. Holbrook accused Quimby of having an “agenda,” although he would not specify what that agenda might be.
They both support a stronger military response to terrorism, and would unleash the country’s military power to fight ISIS in the Middle East.
Smith is already looking past the primary and focusing his attacks on Pingree, whom he calls a “shrill ideologue out of tune with what Maine needs.” He has already run television ads, featuring cartoon characters, to attack her recent visit to Cuba to promote organic farming.
“With the problems we’re facing, with terrorism among others, organic farming and curbing food waste cannot be our priorities,” Smith said.
Whoever wins the Republican Primary on June 14 will face an uphill battle against a fairly popular incumbent.
It’s also a year when many national political predictions have been proven wrong.
Portland resident Marian McCue is the former editor and publisher of The Forecaster.