Politics & Other Mistakes: The last non-candidate

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Democratic 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is thinking of running for governor, adding her name to the list of nearly two dozen people seeking the office. Likewise, Nick Isgro, the recently re-elected Republican mayor of Waterville, is exploring the possibility.

Also, the guy who fixes my furnace said he’ll probably announce his candidacy next week. And both women who tend bar at my favorite watering hole say they’re seriously considering Blaine House bids. At Thanksgiving dinner, three of my relatives and two of my friends said they’re probably going to get in the race – even though none of them lives in Maine.

In an age when being utterly unqualified is no longer an impediment to holding high public office, almost everybody thinks they can do the job of the state’s chief executive. And considering the current occupant of that position, it’s tough to prove them wrong.

It took all my skills as an investigative journalist to locate somebody who was willing to swear they would not, under any circumstances, become a candidate for governor. But perseverance finally led me to Archibald “Archie” Gunkburger, a recently retired septic-tank cleaner and amateur pediatrician from North New South Portland.

I asked Gunkburger why he alone was immune to the suddenly trendy infection of gubernatorial ambitions.

“Well, to be honest, I won’t be around for the election,” he told me. “Or the campaign, for that matter. My doctor says I’ve got a terminal illness, and I probably won’t last another two months.”

Fair enough, but receiving that diagnosis must have freed him from petty concerns and allowed him to consider the greater questions that confront not only Maine, but all of humanity.

“Not really,” he said. “Since I found out I was going to die pretty soon, I’ve been too busy maxing out my credit cards and drinking everything in my liquor cabinet.”

Plenty of successful politicians have crafted long careers out of platforms that don’t differ significantly from that plan. But surely Gunkburger had some additional advice for those who’d have to carry on after he was gone.

“They’re gonna wanna call my brother-in-law if they need their septic tank pumped, because I won’t be doing that. Which is one of the best things about dying.

“Oh, and they might consider reducing the state income tax, expanding the sales tax to cover entertainment and other frivolous activities, instituting a welfare system with strict time limits but gradual reductions in benefits as recipients begin earning their own money, finding a sensible way to pay for expanding Medicaid, breaking up the state Department of Health and Human Services into three or four smaller agencies that can be managed in a sensible fashion, making it easy to buy legal marijuana at a reasonable price, getting rid of term limits on legislators, dumping that stupid Clean Election law and spending the money saved on health care, using ranked-choice voting only to elect judges of probate and other obscure posts nobody pays any attention to, eliminating county government, ignoring Eliot Cutler, requiring 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin to actually live in the district he represents, limiting Pine Tree Development Zones to areas of the state that are economically depressed and to companies that actually create jobs, getting over the idea that there’s such a thing as serious voter fraud in Maine, allowing the governor to appoint the attorney general to a seven-year term like judges, opening more casinos, closing more for-profit colleges, halting all wind-energy projects except those on Portland’s peninsula, opening clinics to give drugs to those addicted to opioids, stopping all efforts to prevent women from controlling their own bodies or transgender people and gun owners from exercising their civil rights, cutting the price of liquor to whatever New Hampshire’s charging, trying not to use the word ‘irregardless’ and making hot cross buns available year round. I really like hot cross buns. Makes no sense that you can only buy ’em at Easter.”

I was astonished. Gunkburger had a more complete, thoughtful and tasty platform than anybody actually running for governor. “Surely, you didn’t come up with all that stuff just now, off the top of your head,” I said.

“No,” Gunkburger admitted. “I’d been thinking about it for some time.”

Uh oh, I thought, here it comes.

“You see,” he said, “right up until I discovered I was headed for an early exit, I was planning to run for governor.”

Hot cross bun recipes and other ephemera may be emailed to aldiamon@herniahill.net.