Primary Colors

empty-pollsAllow me to make a bold prediction.

Voter turnout for Maine’s 2014 Primary Elections on June 10 will be absolutely dismal.

Taxpayers across Maine will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for an absolute non-event; an utter waste of time and resources, all in the name of a Democratic process that doesn’t work without a contest.

In fact, we will be lucky to see voter participation that exceeds the June 1996 state primary, when only 12 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

Think of it this way, it will be like buying a ticket to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The winners have already been determined.

Unlike the June 2010 Primary four years ago, the gubernatorial candidates for each political party have already been chosen. If only one Democrat goes to the polls somewhere in Maine, Mike Michaud will clinch his party’s nomination in a landslide.

But in 2010, voters of both parties had lots of choices. There were four candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, and no fewer than seven candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination.

More recently, in 2012, six Republicans and four Democrats fought in the primaries for a chance to fill the shoes of U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.

This year, Republican Susan Collins has already won her party’s nomination and Shenna Bellows is assured of being the Democratic Party’s sacrificial cow.

But what about the Maine Legislature and the crop of fresh faces ready to head off to Augusta?

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

In fact, you may want to cry because you and all of your neighbors will be funding an entire day of using municipal clerks and voting officials to collect ballots that hardly matter.

Of Maine’s 35 state senate seats, only four will face a primary challenge (three Democratic primaries and one Republican primary)

It’s not much different for the process to fill the 151 chairs in the Maine House of Representatives, where only 19 of the 151 races will see a Primary challenge (8 Democratic primaries and 11 Republican primaries)

In 132 of 151 House Districts in Maine, it doesn’t matter a bit  if you go to the polls on June 10. The races for the Blaine House, the U.S. Senate and the Legislature have been pre-determined.

Please do not disturb the slumber of your municipal clerks or voting officials.



LePage leads on Facebook; abandons Twitter?

Governor Paul LePage continues to lead his two rivals for the Blaine House on Facebook, picking up 341 new likes for his re-election campaign page over the last 10 days.

But the Governor is still lagging on Twitter, gaining only 11 new followers during the same time period.

In fact, the @LePage2014 Twitter feed has been virtually silent since March 24, when the campaign issued its most recent tweet directed at reporters, saying no one better understands poverty than LePage (referencing his impoverished youth on the streets of Lewiston)

Meanwhile Democratic challenger and Congressman Mike Michaud’s campaign received a nice plug on the Portland Press Herald’s blog, detailing where the candidate would be touring during his two week-Easter break from Congress. Among the highlights: a visit to a micro-brewery and the opportunity to learn how to blow glass at an Ellsworth glass shop.

Michaud will also be opening some campaign offices throughout Maine, according to the Press Herald. No word from the newspaper about the plans of the other two candidates.

Michaud picked up 205 new fans on Facebook and again made the greatest gains on Twitter, adding 61 new followers in the last 10 days.

Michaud now has 11,901 Facebook fans and 1,605 Twitter followers

I’m not alone in tracking the candidates’ social media activity

After boasting about their growing number of Facebook fans, the campaign of Independent candidate Eliot Cutler was called on the carpet by the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Only four days after our latest social media tracking update, the state’s largest newspaper published their own report,  following a rigorous examination of the social media analytics of all three campaigns.

The newspaper’s lead graph:

Eliot Cutler’s campaign trumpeted its popularity on Facebook last week, saying its more than 20,000 “likes” outpace his competitors, Paul LePage and Mike Michaud.

What the independent candidate for governor’s campaign didn’t say was this: It has paid Facebook $16,000 to promote the campaign page . . .”

Our own analysis shows that Cutler’s campaign is trailing both LePage and Michaud on Facebook.

During the last 10 days, Cutler picked up only 170 new fans (Likes) on his campaign Facebook page. Although Cutler has the greatest overall number of Facebook fans, both LePage and Michaud are gaining ground faster.

LePage and Michaud each saw their Facebook fans increase by margins of 4 percent during the last 10 days. Cutler’s Facebook fan base grew by only 1 percent during the same period.


April 4, 2014 Update

March 22, 2014 update



Eight days a week

1712_001I am simultaneously annoyed and grateful.

It’s that time of year again, and I still want to ignore it. I still want to wish it away, block it from my reality.

But this will be the fifth consecutive year of having family and friends gather for a walk in nearby Kennebunkport.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, what would we be doing on Saturday if Laura didn’t have this fucking disease, this disease I try to ignore?

So instead of yard work, shopping excursions or puttering around the homestead, a group of us will drive –caravan style — to the Consolidated School and register for the annual MS Walk.

On that day, I am surrounded by people with MS, and it is impossible for me to deny that the disease is also eating away at Laura, my wife . . .my best friend, my advocate.

Laura has her own system of denial. She is not as good as me, but she does a pretty good job of keeping the disease hidden from public view.

You almost can’t tell… unless you watch a climb a set of stairs.

Right here, right now

According to the National MS Society, more than 2.1 million people have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

We are luckier than most of these people. We have good health insurance, and Laura still has most of her mobility. She is not in a wheelchair.

Not yet.

And that’s the part that gets me: knowing that it’s just going to get worse; knowing that every day I lose just a little bit more of the person I love most in the world.

We generally don’t talk about MS or the way it impacts our boys, our marriage . . . our lives.

But each year — even if it’s for just one day — we tackle this disease head on by participating in the annual MS walk, an event that raises funding for continued research and the ongoing search for improved treatments or maybe a cure for MS.

Laura was diagnosed with MS a little more than five years ago, and each year we have been blessed by watching Team Seaver grow in number and spirit. It is encouraging to see other families living with MS; to witness their courage and determination.

But it is also haunting to see so many other people dealing with MS in their own families, especially when their loved one’s illness has progressed so much more. It’s sort of like seeing your own life 10, 20 or 30 years into the future.

I cannot afford to worry about the future, nor mourn the past. Thus, I have to focus on what can be done today . . . right here, right now.

So, at the risk of annoying friends, acquaintances and colleagues, I offer this link to the Team Seaver page. Here, you can make a small donation to help fund ongoing research and support for people with MS.

No gift is too small, and all are very much appreciated. Thank you.

Update: Tracking the Campaigns

camplogo3Governor Paul LePage made the greatest gains on Facebook over the last two weeks, but his Democratic challenger Mike Michaud led the three-man race on Twitter with a 5 percent jump in followers.

As mentioned in my March 20th post, I will be regularly tracking the social media campaigns that are tied to the 2014 Maine gubernatorial election.

Between now and the November election, we will provide updates at least every two weeks, including review of the candidates’ social media pages and web sites.

Team LePage 2014 boasted of their uptick on their Facebook page earlier today.!/mainesgov/posts/10152758748754676?stream_ref=5!/mainesgov/posts/10152756469139676?stream_ref=5

Over the last two weeks, Lepage saw a 3 percent jump in Facebook fans, from 18,438 on March 20 to 19,058 today.

04-04-FacebookIndependent Eliot Cutler still leads the pack with the greatest number of Facebook fans (20,023) but saw only a 1 percent increase during the last two weeks.

It’s worth repeating that Michaud got a much later social media start because both LePage and Cutler hung on to their 2010 social media platforms. Nonetheless, Michaud (@Michaud2014) has overshadowed Cutler (@EliotCutler) on Twitter, making a 5 percent jump, from 1,475 to 1,544 followers.

While Cutler increased his Twitter followers by 4 percent, he still has fewer followers than either LePage or Michaud.

04-04-twitterMeanwhile, over at Team LePage (@LePage2014) Twitter followers increased only 1 percent, yet they seem to be making good use of their Facebook page, pushing fans to their web site and offering direct donation and volunteer mechanisms.

Over at Cutler’s web site, you can read the candidate’s plan for Maine and sign a petition to ensure that Cutler will be involved in all of the gubernatorial debates. I’ll let you be the judge of how well his site works.

See you in two weeks, if not sooner!

Every picture tells a story

ChinaHere’s a picture.  I found it on Facebook.

Take a good look. What do you see?

At first, I wanted to be outraged. I wanted to be full of righteous indignation, full of sound and fury.

But then I paused and took a closer look. The picture before me slowly changed.

What I first perceived to be a callous political stunt was actually something much more benign, yet so incredibly beautiful.

A woman and her two teen daughters, enjoying what appears to be a spontaneous moment during a visit to the Great Wall of China.

A mother and her children, sharing a moment they will likely never forget.

The image of these three beautiful woman with one of the world’s greatest man-made wonders serving as an understated backdrop is . . . well, more than I can describe.

So, in less than two minutes, I was moved from outrage to a glowing sense of pride. That’s the First Family of the United States, our best ambassadors to represent the true character, warmth and spirit of my countrymen.

Damn, I thought, I am going to share this photo. It’s pretty awesome.

What went wrong?

As I went to hit the “share” button, I noticed some of the comments that had been posted on the White House Facebook page. I could not believe what I was reading.

So like driving past an accident, I slowed down and scrolled because — for some unknown reason — I just needed a little more hate in my day, a tad more vitriol. I was apparently thirsty for the ugly carnage of rage and fear.

Within 3o seconds, I thought I was going to vomit, literally.

I could not  – - still cannot — believe what I was reading. One man referred to Michelle Obama and her two daughters as “apes.”

Another man urged the First Family to commit suicide by jumping off the wall.

It went downhill from there, but I cannot — 24 hours later — bring myself to retype the words, the pure, unadulterated hate that is as alive and well today as it ever was in our nation’s history.

I get that it’s hard for many Americans who are still struggling under the weight of a sluggish economy to see the First Family’s vacation photos.  In an earlier post from 2012, I pointed out that President Bush rarely hesitated to use his vacation time.

It’s tough optics, but it is not exclusive to the Obama family.

And when friends talk about racism and the Obama Administration, I generally push back. I tell them they are exagerrating…”playing the race card.”

I used to think his supporters would see rampant racism around every corner, simply as a way to mask the president’s failures or his shortcomings.

So, maybe I needed to see what I saw last night.

I did not vote for President Obama, but I want to buy him a beer or two because I now know he is a far better man than me. Why?

Well, if I were the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military, and if someone described my wife and children as “apes,” . . . well, let your imagination run wild, but the world would probably have one less ignoramus surfing the internet.

Bottom line? It’s really ugly out there, but if you are patient . . . and open to it . . .there is a lot of beauty to behold.

Social media and Maine’s gubernatorial campaign

camplogo3Despite all the hoopla about the power of social media tools in political campaigns, what metrics can we use to determine if those tools are effective?

While just about anyone can set up a Twitter account or create a Facebook page, social media tools are only as effective as those who are using them.  Although it is widely accepted that social media tools played a big part in President Obama’s 2008 campaign, that type of success is not guaranteed by simply using social media as part of a campaign strategy.

When it comes to Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial race, which of the campaigns is best using social media? More importantly, how do we set aside our individual biases and evaluate the campaigns based solely upon their social media metrics?

At the Brookings Institute’s Center for Technology Innovation, Darrell West offers a mixed review regarding social media and campaign engagement and the awkward transition to actual governance.

Social media are the ultimate in disruptive technology. They change information delivery, business organization, online content, news coverage, and the manner in which individuals process new developments. As shown during the 2008 campaign, these digital tools represented a textbook example of voter mobilization and electoral impact. They were, in the words of Engage Partner Mindy Finn, the “central nervous system” of campaign organizations.

Using social networking outreach tools such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter, a number of Democratic and Republican candidates raised money, identified supporters, built electoral coalitions, and brought people in closer touch with the electoral process.

You may recall a somewhat silly and lighthearted piece about Maine’s gubernatorial campaigns that I posted a couple of months ago. Then, I jokingly said we should dispense with the standard election process and use social media metrics to determine the winner. I examined each of the campaign’s current metrics.

Twitter FollowersToday, I have decided to track those metrics on a regular basis and to blog frequently about those campaigns and their use of social media.

Over the last 60 days, each of the Maine gubernatorial campaigns has been active on various social media platforms. But before we begin, it’s important to note that Democrat Mike Michaud is the latest entrant to this race. Both Governor LePage and Eliot Cutler carried over their respective social media support from the 2010 campaign.

Nonetheless, Michaud has seen the greatest increase in social media traffic, earning a 21 percent increase in the number of Twitter followers @Michaud2014, moving from 1,219 Twitter followers on January 20 to 1,475 followers as of March 20, 2014.

Although Governor LePage (@lepage2014) has the greatest number of Twitter followers (1,698) his metrics have increased only 8 percent during the same time period.

Eliot Cutler (@EliotCutler) saw a 10 percent increase in Twitter followers, from 1, 153 to 1,269 followers during the same period.

Facebook LikesOn Facebook, Cutler still dominates in the total number of Likes for his campaign page (19,824) but saw only a 4 percent increase over the last 60 days, while both Michaud and LePage experienced increases of 10 percent.

LePage’s Facebook page had 18,438 fans on March 20, compared to 16,791 fans on January 20, 2014.

Michaud’s Facebook page had 11,600 fans on March 20, compared to 10,529 fans on January 20, 2014.

When viewed overall, it would appear that Team Cutler has the steepest hill to climb, so far.

Note: Though it’s generally common knowledge, it must be noted that Twitter followers and Facebook fans do not translate directly to the number of supporters for a political candidate. As an example, I follow all three campaigns on Twitter, but will only be voting for one candidate.

Third time is the charm?

Perry Aberle... Sun Chronicle Photo

Perry Aberle… Sun Chronicle Photo

While most people were picking out green outfits, drinking lots of beer or otherwise wasting time on St. Patrick’s Day, one select group of folks were bracing for potential fame and fortune as hopeful members of the 2015 Maine Legislature.

The deadline for wannabe state representatives and state senators came and went at 5 p.m. on March 17.

Given the impacts of last year’s legislative redistricting and Maine’s term limits law, voters will be faced with a healthy crop of fresh faces.

But you can always count on a few perennial candidates: those who think the next campaign will be the magic campaign, the Wonka Golden ticket that will admit them into the strata of being really important and somewhat relevant.Such is the case in Biddeford, where Perry Aberle — undaunted by two consecutive and somewhat epic campaign failures — has once again tossed his hat into the ring. Hopefully, someone will toss him back a working razor.

Aberle won his last election nearly two decades ago, when he was still in high school and was elected to serve one term on the Biddeford City Council. Since then, his campaign skills have deteriorated apparently.  He ran for the seat two years ago and was crushed by incumbent Paulette Beaudoin, the proverbial little old lady who cleaned Aberele’s clock by garnering nearly 64 percent of the vote (2,585-1,471).

A year later, Aberle brushed himself off and decided to challenge Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant. Despite a much larger pool of voters in a city-wide election, Aberle’s vote total shrunk by more than half, and he finished a distant third in a three-way race that also included former mayor Joanne Twomey. Casavant easily won re-election with 2,377 votes, compared to 720 for Aberle.

Today, Aberle is running as a Republican for the Maine House of Representatives in District 12, which includes the central and downtown portions of the city. He will face Biddeford businessman Martin Grohman, a Democrat, in the general election.

Will the the third try be the charm for Aberle? Don’t bank on it, would be my advice.

Over in District 11, which includes western portions of the city, Democrats Ryan Fecteau and David Flood will duke it out for their party’s nomination. The winner of that contest will face political newcomer Debi Davis, a Republican, in the November general election.

In the District 32 State Senate race, Democrat David Dutremble will once again bank on his family’s political legacy and last name recogntion to hold onto his seat for another term. Dutremble will once again be challenged by Arundel businessman James Booth who ran for the seat two years ago as an Independent. This time, Booth is running as a Republican.  Anything is possible, but Booth is facing an uphill battle in a district that historically favors Democrats.

Silver and Gold

WP_20140301_18_36_50_ProI don’t know what metric you use to measure your life, but I learned something valuable last night as the hours counted down toward my 50th birthday.

Despite all the material benchmarks and the conventional wisdom about what a man should accomplish in the first 50 years of his life, there is no better metric to determine success than to experience the love and companionship of friends and family.

Apparently, when you celebrate the silver anniversary of your life, you are rewarded with bundles of gold.

Given my self-destructive tendencies, the Vegas line on my getting to 50 has always been a bit dicey. But the payoff when I got there was beyond compare.

How incredibly blessed am I?

WP_20140301_18_33_15_ProAs the clock refused to slow, I was surrounded by the most incredible (and diverse) group of people. If I ever doubted my success, I no longer have the luxury of doubt.

We are reckless in our use of the lovely word, friend, said Romain Rollard; and I agree.

How do you measure success in your career? when former and current colleagues are willing to drive more than 100 miles just to sip beers and eat pizza in celebration of your birthday. When former and current professional competitors walk into that same room with smiles and a warm embrace.

How do you measure your success as a husband and a father? When your teenage sons voluntarily give up a Saturday night just to hang with you and other “old people.” When your wife spends weeks coordinating and planning a party to celebrate your birthday, baking cupcakes into the late hours of a work night.

WP_20140301_18_51_43_ProHow do you measure success among your peers? When you can count friends you have known since the Carter Administration, and newer friends who would gladly answer the phone at 4 a.m. if you really needed them.

That so many people wanted to be there, and so many others — limited by geography and the other constraints — sent warm greetings, affection and regret.

As I fell asleep, it occurred to me that I have exceeded my own expectations; that I am wealthier than I could possibly imagine; that I am fortunate beyond belief.

As a species we celebrate our common benchmarks (weddings, funerals, anniversaries and birthdays) because it is the stuff that makes the day-to-day drudgery worthwhile. We are all in this together, and it’s always so much better with companionship and the gift of friends.

WP_20140301_18_22_45_ProThank you so much!

Color me bad

Elephant_LogoYou find the weirdest stuff on Facebook.

This morning, I stumbled across a new Facebook page that is dedicated to the idea of reclaiming the color blue for Republicans.

At first blush, I thought this was one of the silliest things. But then, I started thinking about it.

Why would the GOP want the color blue versus red? Isn’t red the traditional color for Republicans? Not unless you consider “traditional” as the last 15 years.

According to the Republicans Red No More Facebook page, “center-right parties around the world are Blue, and Social Democrat parties are Red, except in the U.S. where 13 years ago the media assigned Red to the Republicans. “

The page creators argue that for more than a century, Republicans were routinely associated with Blue and Democrats with Red.

That color association was changed, they say, by NBC journalist Tim Russert in 2000 when he assigned Red to Republicans on his electoral map.

Since then, they say, the media has adopted this formula, even though it runs counter to American history and worldwide practice.

Are they right? Well, take a look at the map that NBC used to portray the 1980 presidential election results between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

1980 mapBut do colors really matter?

Apparently so. At least to color psychologists:

Color is a form of non verbal communication.  It is not a static  energy and its meaning can change from one day to the next with any  individual.

For example, a person may choose to wear the red one day and  this may indicate they are ready to take action, or they may be  passionate about what they are going to be doing that day, or again it  may mean that they are feeling angry that day, on either a conscious or  subconscious level.

Experts say the color red can cause people to feel rushed, agitated or angry. The color blue, on the other hand is generally associated with serenity. It is also associated with trust, honesty and loyalty.

So, given this information it becomes easy to see why Republicans want to “take back” the color blue.

And what about the rest of the world? Are Social Democratic political parties generally red and center-right parties blue?

That would be true in a wide range of countries, including Finland, Israel and the Czech Republic. In fact, the more you look, the more you will see that conservative or centrist parties are associated with the color blue around the globe.

But I don’t expect the U.S. Democratic Party to go down without a fight in the upcoming color war. After all, the last thing Democrats want is to be associated with the color red (Think Soviet Union, the Red Invasion and all sorts of other negative stereotypes.

Who changed the color? Was it a mainstream media with a liberal bias? Was it an oversight or an intentional switch by the GOP? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, but one thing is for sure: you can always find some strange stuff on Facebook, which relies on the color blue.


Stand and Deliver

State Sen. Tom Saviello, Kennebec Journal photo

State Sen. Tom Saviello, Kennebec Journal photo

I like Tom Saviello. He is a man after my own heart.

He was a Democrat, then an Independent and now a moderate Republican.

He hails from western Maine, and his state senate district includes my birthplace of Farmington.

My mother’s family has lived in the Farmington-Wilton area for generations. That landscape is known to produce some of Maine’s finest and hardest working people; folks with a keen sense of humor and a clever wit.

In fact, Farmington is the birthplace of Chester Greenwood, the man who invented earmuffs.

In western Maine, common sense is a prerequisite for survival, and Saviello has loads of common sense.

He is pragmatic, personable and about as decent a man as you could hope to find. Sounds like a great guy, right?

Wrong, at least for some who prefer to sit on the lunatic edge of the Republican Party.

You see, Tom Saviello is the worst of the worst simply because he is a moderate. Christ, he was once a Democrat. How can you trust such a guy?

If you’re a Republican you had better take an oath to the Tea Party and its fundamentalist agenda if you want to get elected or even re-elected.

You can see such a dynamic playing out on the national stage, where Republicans such as John Boehner or Mitch McConnell are being taken to task by swaths of people who believe that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, there is no such thing as climate change, and that all immigrants should be deported because there is a high probability that they will vote for Democrats if given the chance.

Now, I don’t know where Saviello stands on climate change or immigration reform. Heck, he may or may not believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ. But I do know this: He is not Republican enough for the Tea Party.

History repeats itself

It was only two years ago when Maine Republicans shot themselves in the foot, giving up a U.S. Senate seat by applauding a hard-right primary challenge to U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.

Snowe’s crime? She served on the Senate Finance Committee and voted in favor of sending the Affordable Care Act to the Senate floor for further debate and promised tweaks.

Ultimately, Snowe stood shoulder to shoulder with every other Republican and voted against passage of Obamacare, but the damage had been done. Suddenly she was facing a three-way primary, including two candidates who said she was not conservative enough.

I spoke on behalf of Snowe at Biddeford’s 2012 Republican caucus (Yes, there is such a thing).

I heard and felt the jeers from the crowd. (Yes, there was a crowd)

Only days later, Snowe abruptly announced that she would not seek another term to complement her distinguished political career. She was done. She blamed partisan gridlock in Washington, but a lot of us didn’t buy her rationale. I was angry that she was leaving. The Republican Party was about to endure two painful losses. 1.) the loss of a great and principled stateswoman who represented her party well, and 2.) a much needed seat in the U.S. Senate.

Snowe’s seat was taken by Democrat . . .errIndependent Angus King.

Now two years later, this same dynamic is playing out at the legislative level.

Earlier this month, John Frary, a retired college professor and right-wing darling, announced that he would challenge Saviello in the District 18 Republican Primary.

Saviello was obviously frustrated by that announcement, and threatened to walk away from the GOP if any other member of his party had the temerity to challenge him, according to political pundit Ethan Strimling in his Agree to Disagree blog at the Bangor Daily News.

Strimling goes on to speculate that hard-right Republicans are angry with Saviello’s moderate track record. He actually voted to override several of Republican Governor Paul LePage’s vetoes and voted to expand Medicaid.

Strimling ends his analysis this way: “. . . it [the potential challenge of Saviello] is clearly reflective of an increasingly intolerant Republican Party.”

First, you need to take Strimling with a grain of salt. He is a partisan Democrat. It his mission (second to looking good on television) to make his own party look good and Republicans look like “knuckle draggers.”

Secondly, it remains a bit unclear whether Frary, a man who routinely amuses himself with his own wit, will actually enter the race in an attempt to unseat Saviello.

But the following points should be clear:

If Saviello walks away from his party simply because he is being challenged, let me be the first to show him the door. There is no need to act like a petulant two-year-old, especially after you have spent a lifetime building a strong track record of public service and strong character. You need to stand up to bullies, not walk away.

Despite his partisan credentials, Ethan Strimling is on point when he says the GOP is in trouble if it can’t afford some flexibility in its own ranks. Democrats were not crazy about Mike Michaud’s pro-life stance, but they didn’t primary him. Instead, they waited for him to eventually change his position.

The GOP used to be a big tent party, but it seems increasingly unwilling to lease space to anyone who dares challenge an increasingly bizarre list of ideological demands foisted upon the platform by the Tea Party.

It well past time for common-sense Republicans to stand up and take their party back. Otherwise what we saw happen with Snowe’s seat will become more of a trend.

And to my Republican friends, how’s Angus King working out for you?