The Universal Notebook: And the next governor of Maine will be …

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The next governor of Maine won’t be chosen until Nov. 2, 2010, but I’m pretty sure I can already tell you who the winner will be. Even if I’m wrong, it’s no-news August, so no one is going to remember 15 months from now. And if I’m right, you can be sure I’ll remind you repeatedly.

Currently, the field of gubernatorial candidates numbers 15, with the lack of clear front-runners encouraging wannabees and also-rans to throw their hats in the ring. I somehow imagine Maine Senate President Libby Mitchell, who announced last week, surveying the Democratic candidates and thinking to herself, “I can beat those clowns.”

Frankly, I’m always amazed when people who seem to have no chance at all of being elected (Donna Dion and Dawn Hill on the D side, Matt Jacobson and Bruce Poliquin for the GOP, all four Independents and both Greens) decide to run. As the money chase heats up in an economy where cold, hard cash is going to be hard to come by and the pollsters start handicapping the race, the field will thin out quickly. So let’s just winnow the wheat from the chaff right here and now.

Having disposed of the hopeless hopefuls above, we can also eliminate the old warhorses. Democrat Steven Rowe is the former attorney general, but the operative word here is “former.” His political career is over. Then there’s state Sen. Peter Mills, one of the few Republicans I might consider voting for, but because I, a card-carrying liberal Democrat, might vote for him, his own reactionary party won’t. Mills would stand a better chance running as an independent.

Independents always think they have a chance because independents outnumber Republicans and Democrats in Maine and we have twice elected independent governors, but the field doesn’t have a Jim Longley or an Angus King in it this time.

So that leaves former ski mogul Les Otten as the leading Republican candidate and the veteran Libby Mitchell and the newcomer Rosa Scarcelli as the leading Democratic contenders.

My sense is that, with state and federal government in the midst of fiscal turmoil, voters are not going to look kindly on anyone, such as Libby Mitchell, who is seen as part of the old order. The next governor of Maine is going to be an outsider, someone with real-world executive experience. That leaves Les Otten vs. Rosa Scarcelli.

“Rosa who?” you ask.

Yes, Les Otten, by virtue of his failed ski resort empire and part ownership of the Boston Red Sox, has the greater Maine name recognition, but Otten is old news. Rosa Scarcelli is the next new thing, a female Obama promising “a new day, when Maine starts rising again.”

Rosa Scarcelli might seem like a long shot right now, but “Rosa for Maine” has a winning ring to it. She’s a bright, young Maine native, raised in Wilton, educated at Bowdoin, and she’s apparently a very successful businesswoman. As chief executive officer of Stanford Management, she has put together an affordable housing portfolio with some 2,000 units in Maine, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.

Selected as one of 20 “emerging leaders” to receive this year’s Henry Crown Fellowship from the Aspen Institute, Scarcelli is my dark-horse candidate to take the next big step for Maine. We’ve elected women to the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and as Speaker of the Maine House and President of the Maine Senate. We’ve also had a woman as chief justice of Maine Supreme Judicial Court. It’s time we finally had a woman in the Blaine House. I think Rosa Scarcelli might be that woman.

Gov. Rosa Scarcelli. Remember, you read it here first.

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beem-edgar-op.jpgThe Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem’s personal look at the world around him.