Orange Crush

donald-trumpThere is no doubt in my mind that this blog post is going to cost me some friends.

In fact, it may cost me some other things too, but I can’t sit here and be silent.

I am watching as my country is gripped in fear. I am watching as politicians scream about safety. I am watching and listening to heated debates among my friends about the Paris terror attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the role of Muslims in the United States of America.

It is like a nightmare, and I wonder: has everyone forgotten their history?

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said philosopher George Santayana.


Most of us are too young to remember the horrors of WWII, when millions of Jewish refugees fled Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party.
Then, under the authority of the Third Reich, Jews were required to register with the government and to report their movements and whereabouts.
Eventually, Jews were rounded up and sent to prison camps. They were systematically executed during Hitler’s reign of terror.
How could this horror take place? What gave rise to the Nazis? How could Hitler lead an entire nation into a campaign of loathing that eventually turned into mass murder and one of the most significant atrocities in human history?
The answers are difficult to imagine, but it was an incremental process. Germany was reeling financially and on the brink of hyper-inflation fueled by crushing debt that stemmed from their obligations for reparations after World War I.
So, Germany’s economy was in rough shape. But beyond their terrible economy Germans were also concerned about the growing threat of communism in their country. They needed some scapegoats to blame this on.
Hitler came onto the political scene as a magnetic and charismatic speaker. He promised the German people safety and security. He had a stunning ability to whip up the masses with his rhetoric. He delivered scapegoats in the form of Jewish financiers who he blamed for the country’s economic woes.
Sound familiar?
The German people were complicit, either by their silence or by their support of Hitler and the Nazis.
Polls taken in 1938 and 1939 found that the majority of American citizens did not want the government to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to settle in the United States.
A couple of decades later, another gifted and charismatic speaker came onto the political scene; this time in the United States.
Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led America through the “Red Scare” of the 1950s.
McCarthy spent nearly five years trying to expose communists and other left-wing “loyalty risks” in the U.S. government during the early 1950s, at the height of the Cold War against Russia.
Even mere insinuations of disloyalty by McCarthy were enough to convince many Americans that their government was packed with traitors and spies. McCarthy’s accusations were so intimidating that few people dared to speak out against him.
But Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a fellow Republican to McCarthy, did stand up to him with her Declaration of Conscience speech. One part of that speech that I find especially relevant today is this:
“The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny –Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”


Donald Trump, so far the leading candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, endorsed the idea for a database to collect information about Muslims living in the United States. At a campaign event in  Newton, Iowa, NBC asked [Trump] whether there should be a database to track Muslims. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems,” he said, according to The Atlantic. “We’re going to have to—we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques,” Trump added. “We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

When challenged to explain how his policy ideas differed from those used in Nazi Germany, Trump’s only response was ” You tell me. You tell me.”

What scares the bejesus outta me is that Trump’s leading poll numbers surged again this morning, fewer than 24 hours after he refused to elaborate on how his policy idea differentiated from those used by the Nazis.

What scares me more?

So many of my friends really like Trump.

“He (Trump) says what I’m thinking, but what political correctness won’t allow me to say,” said one friend, adding that safety is the most important thing a politician can do for the nation.

But should we sacrifice liberty and American ideals for safety?

I always thought this was the land of the free and of the brave, not the land of bigotry and fear.

What was it that Ben Franklin said?

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”



Down to the wire

DSCN4034I am so ready for this to be over. I have been counting the hours for the past two weeks.

As of this writing, we have 199 hours, four minutes and 54 seconds to go before the 2015 Biddeford Municipal Elections are over.

Nearly 200 hours before we know the results; nearly two hundred more hours of speculation about what will happen when the polls close.

We are down to the wire, with a little more than a week to go, and I can’t wait for it to be over.

Historically, fewer than 50 percent of Biddeford voters cast ballots in the municipal elections. The low point was two years ago when little more than 30 percent of registered voters opted to cast ballots.

The results of this year’s elections depend on how many people vote.

Just like the old days, slates of council and school committee members have lined up behind the two mayoral candidates. And this year, more than any other I can remember, has been especially vicious and vitriolic. You can blame the advent of social media if you want, but the sheer hatred and demagoguery goes well beyond the plethora of Facebook pages that have been created and then quickly deleted.

Most of these Facebook pages have been set up anonymously with the author unknown. When anyone attempts to post a contrary comment or different opinion, such posts are quickly deleted. These actions come from those who claim “transparency” and “accountability” is missing in local government. Yeah, right.

I have been covering Biddeford politics for nearly two decades, and I cannot remember a more nasty, vicious campaign cycle, replete with innuendo, rhetoric and half-truths, most of which is directed at Mayor Alan Casavant and some of which is directed at me.

Make no mistake: The driving force behind this campaign of hate and loathing is a man who has been working for several months to be a disruptor; a narcissistic malcontent with a penchant for slinging mud and hell-bent on destroying anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him.

The good news?

But there is some good news. Over the past few days, more and more community leaders (not elected officials) have been speaking up, calling out the anonymous coward whose sole purpose is to divide and spread hatred.

People like Joe LeBlond, a driving organizer of the city’s LaKermesse Festival; and Kenneth Farley, a past president of the Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club, have demonstrated courage and conviction in calling out this school-yard behavior, which is spurred on by a couple dozen of other malcontents.

I am increasingly optimistic that the voters of Biddeford will see through this cloud of smoke and mirrors. A vast majority of residents have had enough of the school-yard games.

A call for leadership

And I have more good news: the city’s two mayoral candidates (and most of the city council candidates) have stayed above the fray. Alan Casavant is hoping for a third term; and Daniel Parenteau is challenging him in the most professional manner. Parenteau has reached out to me privately to share his disgust and disdain for what some of his supporters have said and done to Casavant and to my family.

My only wish is that Parenteau would show real leadership and publicly admonish the tactics used by some of his supporters.

Where it gets personal

As I have previously detailed on these pages, the same narcissistic, juvenile prankster has gone after me and my family. He has threatened us with an “iron-clad” civil lawsuit; he has tried to get my wife fired from her job; he has made baseless, derogatory remarks about my son with fabricated tales of criminal activity. This man (and I use the term loosely) is a venomous leech with no moral compass or sense or self-control. This has been going for months. Read more here

You would think my family would retreat; that we would be intimidated or shy away from the public arena. Not quite.

My wife decided that the city needed other voices to step forward in this year’s election cycle. She asked my opinion about running for a seat on the city council; and I advised her against the idea.

“Why would you want to do that?” I asked. “We don’t need the aggravation. Serving on the council is an incredible time commitment. There is no money, no glory and it is a thankless job that only opens you to criticism. There are better uses for your time,” I reasoned.

But Laura was convinced, and called me later in the day to inform me that she had taken out nomination papers.

At that point, I was all in. I was going to support my wife’s decision 110 percent. I am a professional campaign consultant. I was suddenly in it to win it; and I watched my wife begin her campaign. She collected more signatures than she needed; she began raising money, designed her campaign signs and set up social media accounts. My advice was more often rebuked than accepted.

If there is one thing you should know about my wife, she is fiercely independent (and I would say stubborn). She began visiting various neighborhoods across the city, trekking alone and knocking on doors to meet residents and explain her campaign. She has been fearless and relentless.

It should be noted here that Laura’s four opponents (Marc Lessard, Doris McAuliffe, Joanne Twomey and Melissa Bednarowski) have run clean, honorable campaigns. There have been no smear tactics, just differences of opinion. The way it should be.

Two different perspectives

So, in 200 hours or so it will all be over. Laura is prepared and ready for a win or a loss. Regardless of the outcome, she is going to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. Although she is competitive, she is also relaxed and confident; comfortable in her own skin.

Me? Not so much. I am on pins and needles. I am fully vested in the outcome, but not just for Laura’s race: for all the races. I want to win. It’s part ego, and it’s part my competitive nature. I can admit that I don’t think I will handle a loss as graciously as Laura would in that event.

I want to win as a way to show the world that smear tactics and demagoguery don’t work.

I want to see Laura win because she is my wife. I want to see others win because they are my friends. I am tired of the innuendo, the hatred and the distortions by those (not most of the candidates) who have been invested in Biddeford’s future for less than 180 days.

I applaud Joe Leblond, Kenneth Farley and all the others who have taken a leadership position on social media and elsewhere.

Biddeford has many good leaders. It’s time for them to step up, too.

200 more hours; and I can’t wait for it to be over.

So proud of my wife

Running for elected office is not easy; not by a long shot.

But I am so proud of my wife; proud of her courage, her determination and her fiercely independent spirit.

It’s the two-week stretch, and no matter the outcome, I have enjoyed watching Laura grow and face her challenges head-on. She’ll make one hell of a city councilor.


Pretty Persuasion

boehner-resignDo you argue about politics on social media? Do you find yourself getting angry and often one step away from “unfriending” someone or blocking them?

And what happens when you argue about politics with someone right in front of you? Are you able to keep calm or do you feel your blood begin to boil?

I have an interesting mix of Facebook “friends,” and follow an eclectic mix of folks on Twitter.

Most of these people are relatively outspoken about their political views, and many of them are political junkies just like me. Hence, we are connected via social media.  My social media contacts are pretty much equally divided between the two dominant political parties, but most of them could be described as political moderates.

Lately, however, I am seeing an increasing number of my friends becoming more extremist, whether they sit on the left or right side of the political aisle. I’m not a big fan of the word “extremist,” I prefer to describe these particular friends as passionate.

Passion, however, does not equal reason or even common sense. You can be passionate about something, but if you’re leading with your heart or your gut instead of your brain, you are bound to cross paths with someone who has a polar opposite point of view.

Witnessing those interactions is like watching a train wreck. Nothing good comes from it.

Passionate folks often decry the role of moderates. They say we lack convictions, courage and principles. I would counter that passionate people rarely pause to use their brains when trying to make a political point.

So there, I just lost the art of political persuasion.

Define winning

We live in a culture of winners and losers. We love to root for our teams, and politics has always been a blood-sport.

We have cliches such as “elections have consequences,” a modern adaptation of “to the victor go the spoils.”

But what is the point of winning a political argument? If you win, does it really help your candidate or cause?

What is more important: your PRIDE or your GREED?

Pride is defined as your way of doing things, your personal view of yourself and tactics. Greed is defined as your goals, the object of your desire.

So, first ask yourself: am I arguing to beat someone or am I arguing to help them better see my point?

Instead of bashing a candidate or cause, why not vest your energy into making a more compelling argument for your candidate or cause?

Why are you arguing? To thump your chest, to make a point or maybe to win someone over?

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner abruptly announced he would be leaving his post at the end of October. That announcement drew cheers from many of my friends on both sides of the aisle.

I don’t think Republicans understand fully how much Boehner helped his party. He was a fundraising machine and held together one of the most challenging caucuses in recent memory.

I also don’t think many of my friends on the left appreciate Boehner’s dedication to his country, his willingness to compromise and the leadership he offered in the House.

If it is to be all out war between the two political parties, then the casualties will be counted in losses for our nation.

So let’s all take a stab at better approach to arguing. Let’s persuade instead of attack.

Persuasion is much more difficult, but it is far more rewarding.

And it will likely help keep your blood pressure in check.

For a complete style guide about how to really win a political argument, check this link from New York Magazine.

Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap

Matt Lauzon's comment on my wife's campaign Facebook page

If you work on enough political campaigns, you invariably witness all sorts of dirty campaign tricks and negative mudslinging.

Unfortunately, that kind of tom-foolery has become the norm in national politics, but it is rare to find such tactics deployed at the local level.

As most readers of this blog know, my wife is running for a seat on the Biddeford City Council, and I would like to share with you what has happened to our family over the past 48 hours.

Actually, this sort of stuff has been going on much longer, but let’s keep our focus on recent history.

Matt Lauzon, a former Biddeford resident and a Boston “businessman,” has made it his life’s mission to ruin anyone who has the temerity to question his tactics or techniques in seeking justice for crimes that happened 20 years ago, but were only reported this year.

Lauzon has two objectives: filing a civil lawsuit against the city of Biddeford and disrupting the city’s political landscape. He is heavily vested in both outcomes.

Lauzon is also fixated on me and my wife. I thought we had reached a truce several weeks ago, when he agreed to leave me and my family alone.

You can read his letter to me and my response by clicking on this link: Biddeford Deserves Better.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lauzon has reverted back to his pattern of abusing people and then excusing his actions by hiding behind a veil of being a victim.

Last night, Mr. Lauzon began publicly suggesting that our son is a drug dealer. This is just his latest tirade against me and Laura.

Make no mistake, neither of my kids, my wife or I are perfect people. But if you want to accuse a member of my family with a serious crime, you best have some solid evidence to back it up.

For anyone who does have evidence of any crime being committed, I strongly suggest you call the Biddeford Police Department at (207) 282-5127.

Matt Lauzon is relentless. He generally posts his tirades late at night. When the sun rises, and he sobers up, he quickly deletes his posts, trying to clean his tracks.

As I mentioned before, Matt Lauzon has an agenda. He wants to be a disruptor, and he has zero regard for anyone who gets in his way. He has suggested that Mayor Alan Casavant has sex with his students while teaching at Biddeford High School. He has suggested that the mayor and Police Chief Roger Beaupre had a homosexual relationship. He has also suggested that Casavant had a sexual relationship with Maine District Court Judge Michael Cantara.

Matt 3Matt is a miserable man who plays the role of victim well, all the while spewing vitriol.

I have been covering Biddeford politics for the better part of 20 years. I have seen my fair share of crazy campaigns, but nothing on this level. Candidates’ families and children have never been used as political weapons. As rough as it sometimes gets in Biddeford politics, family and children have always been off limits.

Not anymore, I guess.

Nothing is off limits

As you can see from these attached screenshots, Matt is very, very angry boy.

Matt 1He mocks my mental illness, a subject that I have been very open about. The result? Further stigma that makes others with a mental illness hesitant to speak out.

Lauzon has a mantra of “being positive,” but what has he done to make Biddeford a better community?

As you can see here, he also attacks Vassie Fowler, one of the most generous women you could ever hope to meet. Matt Lauzon can’t hold a candle to Vassie’s ligthouse of making Biddeford a better place. Vassie has been a tireless volunteer and advocate for the city. Her generosity knows no bounds. For years, she has organized and coordinated Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for hundreds of people, including wounded veterans.

For her efforts, Vassie Fowler was given a key to the city.

Matt 4And Matt Lauzon? Well, he goes to city council meetings and screams. He tears down other people. He is full of hate and self-loathing.

Matt Lauzon is a self-absorbed, pathetic human being. He is full of hate.

Mr. Lauzon, a regular visitor to Fantasy Island, claims he has an “iron-clad” case for a civil lawsuit against me and Laura.

My response? Stop yapping your gums, Matt and bring on the lawsuit. You have already failed in getting my wife fired, so your track record is 0-1. Bring on Nightline, NBC’s Dateline, the FBI, Congress, the Governor, the Legislature or Santa Claus. None of your predictions ever come true.

He has about 20 or 30 followers who cheer him on. One of those Lauzon disciples recently described my wife as a C**T on Facebook.  Nice, huh?

As I wrote several weeks ago, Biddeford deserves better.

Someone should deliver that message to Matt and his small band of followers.

It’s been a slow turning

Laura Seaver

Laura Seaver

I have come full circle.

When I first met Laura, she was running for one of two seats on the Old Orchard Beach School Board. I was the editor of a local newspaper, and generally wrote endorsements for various candidates in five different communities.

In that particular race, I endorsed the incumbent, mistakenly thinking there was only one seat up for grabs.

I got an e-mail from Laura Kidman the next day. Part of what she wrote: “If I were a newspaper editor, I would get my facts straight. There are two open seats and three candidates.”


I was feeling defensive and returned her e-mail with a curt response, a half-hearted apology and also told her: “If I were going to write to the editor of a newspaper, I would be sure to spell the name of the newspaper correctly.”

This is how our relationship began.

Later in the day, I was complaining about the e-mail exchange to a reporter from another newspaper. That reporter empathized and added that Laura was really cute . . . and single. She offered to show me a campaign photo.

I was smitten, and I immediately returned to my office to write another e-mail to Laura. A response came into my inbox only moments later.

And that’s how it went for the next several days: a series of e-mails that became increasingly flirtatious, leading up to Election Day.

During our e-mail exchange, I made Laura an offer: If she won the election, I would actually bother to cover a meeting of the Old Orchard Beach School Board.  But if she lost the election, I would buy her a cup of coffee.

We had still not met in person.

On Election Day, my gut felt as if it were filled with shards of broken glass. I could not concentrate. I was planning to go to Old Orchard Beach and check the polls, knowing that Laura would likely be there, greeting voters as they entered the high school.

I saw her standing against a wall with other candidates, and my heart sunk. I knew instantly that she was way out of my league.

I shook her hand briefly, and then moved along quickly, trying to look important . . . as if I cared about the other races in Old Orchard Beach, and then left quickly without saying goodbye.

I drove away from the high school that night, cursing myself for believing that I might actually have a chance with this woman.

Long story short: Laura lost that election, and e-mailed me the next day to remind me that I owed her a cup of coffee. She provided me three different phone numbers to contact her.

There were more e-mails, and then a first date, a second date and so on . . .

Bottom line, it’s very unlikely that we would be married today if Laura had won that election.

Sometimes a loss is a big win.

What goes around comes around

After being married only a few years, Laura won other elections; serving two terms on the Biddeford School Committee. And today, she is a candidate for the Biddeford City Council.

This is where it gets tricky. I often get paid to work on political campaigns, but what do I do when my wife is a candidate?

I struggle with wanting to run her campaign, and she pushes back, saying she is going to do things her own way.

Make no mistake, she appreciates my support and advice, but at the end of the day this particular campaign is hers, not mine.

I am personally vested in seeing her win, but I am also reminded that even a loss could be a good thing.

Laura really cares about the city of Biddeford. She has a lot of good ideas about how our city can move forward.

My job is to sit back, and let her do her job; to help her when she asks, but otherwise keep my opinions to myself. And if you know me, you know that is a tall order.

Laura’s campaign won’t really start until Tuesday, and there are seven weeks to go before Election Day.

It just strikes me that if I didn’t make that mistake during my newspaper days, my life would be completely different today.

So, there are two lessons here:

Mistakes can turn out really well, and losses can be very big wins.

When love comes to town

Daniel Parenteau

Daniel Parenteau

And, they’re off!

The 2015 municipal election season in Biddeford has started with a bang, according to this story from the Portland Press Herald.

As someone who has worked professionally on local, statewide and federal campaigns over the last several years, I find all of this somewhat fascinating.

I have been covering Biddeford’s political landscape for nearly two decades, both as former newspaper editor and now as a blogger. I have witnessed more political maneuvering on this side of the Saco River than you can imagine.

But this year’s races are a bit different. There is a groundswell of opinion that says Biddeford needs a clean sweep, from the mayor’s seat all the way down to ward clerks and wardens.

So, because I am a political junkie and a Biddeford native, you can expect me to be keeping a close eye on the developments of these races between now and Election Day.

Today, we start with the race for the mayor’s seat, where two-term incumbent Alan Casavant is facing potential challenges from at least three candidates, including Daniel Parenteau, a self-employed consultant.

As I pointed out previously, this is not Parenteau’s first bid for political office.

Two years ago, Parenteau was one of six candidates for the city’s two at-large city council seats.

He finished in last place with 805 votes, despite support he received from Casavant.

To kick off his campaign, Parenteau has followed Casavant’s lead by creating a Facebook page.

But Parenteau has also gone a step further, deploying a campaign tactic that we generally see reserved for larger-scale campaigns, such as Congressional races.

According to his Facebook page, Parenteau will be conducting a “working tour” of the city. He will spend a few hours every week, working for free at a locally-owned business as a way to connect with voters.

On Friday, Parenteau was stocking shelves at Ray’s Market on the western side of the city.

This, to my knowledge, is a first in Biddeford campaigns.

Parenteau, who talks a lot about being innovative and connected to every day citizens, is putting those ideas into action. His campaign is being innovative, and he is connecting to people at the grassroots level.

It’s a brilliant strategy that positions him as a “man of the people.”

In his last two campaigns, Mayor Casavant used campaign events to collect food for local food pantries. At the time, it was a well-received move that showed Casavant understood the needs of the people.

Today, Casavant’s detractors paint him as a man who is “out of touch with the community.

Speaking of Casavant, the mayor has yet to take out nomination papers, leading some to question whether he will actually seek a third term.

It’s still very early in the process, and most voters — other than the political junkies and those with an axe to grind — will not begin paying too much attention to any of the campaigns until after Labor Day….summer in Maine is just too short.

But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be an interesting political season Biddeford.