It’s not even Labor Day. Sweet Jesus take me now.
Already the political machinations are beginning in Biddeford, a city that treats their biennial municipal elections like the Super Bowl.
It’s not like this in the neighboring city of Saco, but on the south side of the river — local politics is a blood sport that rivals rugby or a Stanley Cup playoff game.
I should not complain. For years, I have been a season-ticket holder to these gladiator games. From time to time, I have even wandered onto the field, working as defensive coordinator for various candidates.
In 2008, for example, I was hired professionally to help defeat a referendum that would have closed the airport. The result? 86 percent of voters went our way.
Three years later, someone called me and asked if I could head up Alan Casavant’s effort to oust former mayor Joanne Twomey from office. I agreed to help, and we won that campaign with 68 percent of the vote. Not too shabby, especially since we were taking on a two-term incumbent.
Two years later, in 2013, Casavant once again asked for my help in his campaign. We won. By big numbers. Again.
I am a political junkie and a professional communications consultant. It’s fantastic when your hobby and your occupation collide. I was hired in 2012 by Casella Waste Systems to help ensure a successful city council vote that would ensure the MERC trash incinerator was no longer a part of the city’s skyline. The result? The Biddeford City Council voted 8-1 to purchase the MERC property and begin a new curbside recycling program.
Three years later, a private developer is undertaking a $50 million redevelopment of a property that abuts the former incinerator’s parcel. That investment would never have happened if MERC were still there.
In addition to those campaigns, I worked professionally on the Oxford Casino campaign. The result? Oxford became the first casino in Maine, despite many failed attempts by others in previous years.
Last year, I worked to help preserve Maine’s traditional bear hunting practices. We won.
But when you work on campaigns, you don’t always win.
In 2008, I was subcontracted by the Hillary Clinton campaign in an effort to sway Maine’s super delegates. By then, Senator Barack Obama had too much momentum heading into the nomination.
But there was an upside to working on the Clinton campaign. I got to be part of a conference call with Harold M. Ickes, a legend in campaign circles. There I was sitting on a bench swing in my backyard, listening to Ickes talk about strategy. It was a memorable moment and a highlight of my career.
With that bit of disclosure out of the way, allow me to finally get to the point of this blog post.
Alan Casavant and I are friends. Friends.
The Karl Rove of Biddeford?
Apparently, some people in Biddeford have delusions of grandeur. They think a run for the mayor’s seat is the equivalent of running for president.
Over the last few days, there has been much speculation that Alan Casavant is little more than my puppet; that I am somehow the man behind the curtain, keeping the residents of Oz in line.
These people are generally rabidly opposed to Casavant winning a third term. Somehow, they think that linking me to Casavant will further ensure his defeat in November.
Some of these malcontents from the Island of Misfit Toys think that when Alan Casavant farts it’s because Randy Seaver ate beans.
On social media, they keep a steady drumbeat, raising questions about Casavant’s recent press releases about a serious and troubling problem in the city.
“This has all the hallmarks of Randy Seaver’s political spin,” wrote Ryan Gavin on Casavant’s Facebook page, when the mayor announced that he had written a letter to the United States Attorney General.
Joshua Bodwell complained to the mayor that it seemed as if it is actually me who is writing Casavant’s press releases.
And Brian Keely has routinely blogged that I am essentially Casavant’s attack dog. Christ, even Joanne Twomey described me as “the devil.”
Note: If Joanne Twomey ever calls you the devil, you know you’re doing something right.
So let’s set the record straight. I am not helping Alan Casavant with his campaign. I am also not writing his press releases or shooting his videos. With the exception of suggesting which tie he should wear, I am not providing him any strategic advice.
Alan Casavant has close to 4,000 friends on Facebook, any one of them may or may not be giving him advice. How to hell do you get 4,000 Facebook friends? Must be a popular guy.
It’s easy to understand why the malcontents and some others from the Island of Misfit Toys would think that I am helping Casavant. I have helped him before, but I am not helping him now.
1.) I am far too busy at work to devote any time to the tedium of Biddeford’s political struggles. Today my clients stretch from the Bangor area all the way to Sierra Vista, Arizona.
2.) Casavant can’t afford to pay my billable rate, so my primary focus must remain on clients who pay me.
3.) I have some fairly serious health concerns that render me pretty much useless after 8:30 p.m. (more about that in a moment)
4.) I am enjoying a new-found and civil relationship with Matt Lauzon, the man at the center of troubling sex abuse allegations in Biddeford. Both Matt and I have gone through a lot in the last few months and it was simply too stressful to think about getting back into Biddeford’s political theater as anything other than a spectator.
I will most likely vote for Casavant in November. I will let him put a sign on my lawn. I will cheer him on from the sidelines, but I cannot afford (financially, physically or mentally) to be any more involved in his campaign. That is the God’s honest truth.
A true story
In closing, I’d like to tell you a quick story about Alan Casavant.
This story, I think, sums up Alan’s character, integrity and his loyalty to his friends.
Sometimes, just before bedtime, I become confused and disoriented. It usually means I need to take my medications and get to bed. But on this particular cold October night I wandered from my home. Laura was fast asleep. She did not know that I had wandered off.
I became increasingly confused, and I found myself near some woods and on the verge of tears. I was lost and frightened. Fortunately, I had my cell phone. I managed to punch the contacts list and hit the first number. It was Alan Casavant’s cell phone, but I did not know it.
He was already in bed. I told him I was lost and confused. He got up, got dressed, jumped in his car and went looking for me. I was only a 1/4 mile from my home, and he found me rather quickly near the intersection of May and South streets.
He brought me home and came inside to make sure Laura knew what was happening.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call friendship.
In a few weeks, Laura and I are planning to join Alan and his wife, Patti, for dinner in Portland. If I give him any advice, it will be written on a napkin and passed under the table.