Thirteen months to go before the 2010 election and it seems like there are as many people running for governor as will be voting.
On the Republican side of the aisle, there are several attractive candidates worth considering already, and there is still time for others to jump into the race.
Matt Jacobson is one of three businessmen vying for the nomination. He runs Maine & Co., an organization dedicated to recruiting businesses and jobs to Maine. It collects and analyzes data about Maine for businesses considering moving here, locates sites for them, identifies and values the government incentives available, and coordinates financing. Prior to that, Matt worked for several different railroads. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and was a pilot in the Air Force.
Les Otten has a lifelong love of skiing and worked at ski areas growing up. He was the founder and CEO of the American Skiing Co., which once was the largest owner of alpine resorts in the United States. It owned and operated the Sugarloaf and Sunday River ski areas, among others. Les was a minority owner and vice president of the Boston Red Sox organization. He is currently president of Maine Energy Systems, a Bethel company specializing in wood pellet heating systems.
Bruce Poliquin is a native of Waterville who worked his way through high school and Harvard University, doing a wide range of jobs, from cleaning to construction to groundskeeping to waiting tables. After college, he went into the investment business, where he managed worker pension funds for corporations like Bath Iron Works. Bruce gave up that business in order to return to Maine and raise his son after he lost both his wife and father-in-law in a tragic accident.
These guys all know what it takes to run a business and create jobs. That’s appealing because Maine doesn’t have a lot of private enterprise and could use more. We have too many people who are dependent upon government benefits and would be better off if more of them were gainfully employed instead. We have state agencies proudly dedicated to finding every last government assistance dollar for a recipient, while we discourage businesses with high taxes and burdensome regulations.
However, the concern is that businessmen with relatively little involvement in the party, or experience with retail politics, may have trouble campaigning and winning elections. If they do win, they may find themselves without a coalition with which to govern.
So if the businessman model isn’t tempting, there is at least one politician model available: Peter Mills is a native of Farmingham, from a distinguished family, with a resume filled with accomplishments. After high school, he served on a destroyer in Vietnam, then graduated from Harvard and the University of Maine School of Law. Peter has been in the Legislature for the past 15 years. He currently serves in the Senate, where he is a supporter of the current tax reform law, LD 1495.
If neither the businessman nor the politician models interest them, then Republicans have the option of a hybrid. Paul LePage was one of 18 children. At the age of 11, he left his impoverished family to live on his own. He worked numerous jobs, put himself through college, and then got an MBA. Paul is the Republican mayor of Democratic Waterville and general manager of Marden’s, Maine’s unique brand of retailer.
On Thursday, Oct. 8, at 6 p.m., the Portland Republican City Committee is hosting a reception at the Italian Heritage Center, behind the Westgate Shopping Center on Outer Congress Street. There you should be able to see, hear and meet most of these Republican candidates.
The way things are going, by then they’ll probably have more company, too.