I’m not sure when we’ll get the results of the primary elections, but I can tell you I am very disappointed in how political campaigns have changed since my political career began in the 1970s. Today everything is so nasty that, by election day, we don’t like any of the candidates.
I’ve been especially disappointed in the race between Sara Gideon and Susan Collins. I’m assuming Gideon will win the Democratic race because she raised and spent millions of dollars and had the support of several key national groups. These days, money is very important. But her campaign disappointed me with their vicious attacks on Collins, who has served our state well for many years. Equally disappointing, many of Susan’s ads ripped Gideon to pieces.
In the 1970s, things were very different — and much more positive. My first political job was as Bill Cohen’s driver and personal aide. I got the job because Bill knew me. He was my professor in a business law course at the University of Maine in Orono. For much of the campaign, Bill spent his time walking from the New Hampshire border all the way to Fort Kent. Whenever he came to a store, Bill would go in to meet and visit with people. And we’d have a hard time getting him out of the store, because he really enjoyed talking with people.
Two years later, I managed Dave Emery’s congressional campaign. We only spent $35,000 on that campaign, and we beat the incumbent Democrat. That sure wouldn’t happen today. Dave spent much of the campaign walking through his district and talking with people. During his eight years in Congress, Dave scheduled Emery town meetings in grange halls all over his district. I think it was during Dave’s third term in Congress, in a poll, we discovered that 80% of the people said they had met Dave.
These days, I think our politicians depend too much on TV ads, instead of getting out to meet and talk with us.
After a lifetime as a Republican, two years ago I switched to the Democratic Party to vote for Jared Golden and Janet Mills. Both were friends of mine who I helped in their campaigns. After the vote, I did not return to the Republican Party, because it had changed so much. When I began my political career, Republicans were conservation leaders, and I worked on many conservation and environmental projects.
Today our Republican president has repealed more than 100 rules protecting our environment including our rivers and national parks. I just can’t be a member of a political party that supports that destructive behavior. This does not mean I like the Democratic Party, but I remain in that party to support Jared and Janet.
Throughout my career as a lobbyist at the Legislature, when I was executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I had many friends in both political parties. When I started working for SAM, the group only endorsed Republicans. But I quickly learned we needed the support of legislators in both parties, and we became nonpartisan, endorsing both Republican and Democratic candidates. These days, I’m afraid many interest groups focus on one party, and the legislature has become much more partisan.
It drives me crazy today to see nasty road signs. And to get mailings in which candidates attack their opponents. Why can’t they focus on telling us all about themselves and their plans if they are elected? I am sure the presidential race is going to be horrific.
And I know, now that the primaries are over, the campaigns are going to get even nastier. Very sad and very disgusting.
Maybe we should all tell our favorite candidates that if they run nasty ads about their opponents, we won’t be able to vote for them.
Sadly, however, that would leave us with no one to vote for.
George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.