Politics & Other Mistakes: Caron’s checkered past

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Independent Alan Caron is not the worst candidate running for governor.

Of the 46,318 people who have so far announced their desire to be Maine’s next chief executive, he definitely ranks in the top 10 percent, well ahead of the sex offenders, ISIS sympathizers and New York Jets fans.

Caron is smart. He got a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, even though he doesn’t have either a high school or college diploma.

But lots of other gubernatorial candidates are at least as brainy as he is, if not more so.

Caron is politically savvy. He’s engineered campaigns for an exotic array of candidates and issues, from a successful effort to (briefly) block the widening of the southern part of the Maine Turnpike to an unsuccessful effort to (also briefly) block restrictive zoning on the Portland waterfront, to a successful effort to elect Democrat Tom Andrews to the U.S. House of Representatives to an unsuccessful effort to elect Democrat Tom Andrews to the U.S. Senate.

But plenty of his competitors have resumes that are at least as impressive, if not more so.

Caron is experienced in public policy. He’s authored two comprehensive reports on the state’s governance that incorporated a quirky mix of ideas appealing to liberals (spend more on higher education) and conservatives (spend less on K-12 education, Medicaid and the Legislature). The second of those reports in 2010 earned high praise from then-gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, who told the Morning Sentinel, “It’s just absolutely what we’ve been standing for.”

But with the exception of cutting Medicaid, neither LePage nor any of the current crop of would-be governors has ever given serious consideration to actually implementing the Caron agenda.

Nevertheless, the state’s news media greeted the early November announcement that Caron would seek the Blaine House with the undisguised enthusiasm usually reserved for stories about lost pets being reunited with their owners or miracle cures for chronic flatulence. The Portland Press Herald called him “(an) entrepreneur best known for his work researching ways to improve Maine’s economy.” The Lewiston Sun Journal noted, “he’s dealt with ‘a dizzying array of issues’ in a quest to convince Maine to refocus its policies to bolster small business.”

Nobody said anything about some of the scummier people he’s worked with or his association with domestic terrorists or his stint in prison.

Probably because none of that stuff was in his press release.

For most of his life, Caron has been a Democrat, although he’s never gotten along with some core donkey-party constituencies. For instance, labor unions don’t like his close ties to anti-union business owners, such as evil egg emperor Jack DeCoster, a now-jailed despoiler of chickens, migrant workers and the environment.

In a Dem primary, that association alone would make Caron unelectable. Add to that the fact that one of his studies of state government was partially underwritten by Bruce Poliquin, now the conservative GOP congressman from the state’s 2nd District, and you’ve got a recipe for a Democratic cold shoulder. Hence, his decision to run as an independent.

As for prison, Caron ended up there in the early 1970s after being convicted of receiving stolen goods. He was originally sentenced to probation, but violated conditions imposed by a judge, and did eight months behind bars. He was pardoned by former Gov. Joe Brennan.

During his time in the iron hotel, Caron became active in a prison reform effort that, upon his release, morphed into a group called the Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform, or SCAR. Other prominent members included Raymond Levasseur and Thomas Manning, radical leftists who later embarked on an ill-considered attempt to overthrow the U.S. government by setting bombs and robbing banks. Manning also killed a police officer.

Caron has said his association with Levasseur and Manning was brief, and he never bought into their radical agenda. He’s certainly never exhibited any violent tendencies and once even volunteered to help the recently elected LePage with his transition into the governor’s office. That’s about as counter-revolutionary as it gets.

None of this ancient history disqualifies Caron from being governor. But it’s information voters should be able to consider before making their gubernatorial selections.

When weighed along with his considerable accomplishments (and considerable failures), I suspect most people will agree with me that he’s a long way from the worst of the 50,789 gubernatorial wannabes.

(A few more New York Jets fans announced while you were reading this column.)

I’m not running for governor or from your comments emailed to aldiamon@herniahill.net.