She’s a maniac

417378_312880335428347_172657476117301_793753_1590329846_nEarlier this week, I sensed a disturbance in the force, and sure enough there was significant shift taking place in the city of Biddeford’s political landscape.

On Thursday afternoon, State Senator David Dutremble, a Democrat from Biddeford, announced that he will not seek a third consecutive term in the Maine Legislature.  Within 30 minutes of Dutremble’s announcement, Joanne Twomey, a former state legislator and mayor, announced that she would seek Dutremble’s seat.

Oh, happy day.

And to think I was wondering about the subject of my next blog post.

My phone began ringing off the hook. “What are we going to do?” people asked. “We can’t let this happen.”

Republicans began salivating about the potential of capturing the District 32 seat for the first time in 30 years.

After all, Twomey has lost her last four bids for elected office. She embarrassed herself on the state and national stage by lobbing a jar of Vaseline at Governor Paul LePage during an event in Saco. She was carried out of the room, kicking and screaming.

The woolly mammoth was weakened, and the cavemen fetched their spears.

Over the years, I have watched Twomey closely. She considers me a mortal enemy. She has publicly referred to me as “the Darth Vader of Biddeford.”

Even I toyed with the idea of running for the seat, which brought an almost immediate response from Twomey on Facebook: Look forward to running against a Republican Randy Seaver, nothing would make me happier.

Crazy like a fox

I’m a pretty cynical guy, but even I fell for Joanne Twomey’s self-described narrative of being a champion for the downtrodden.

During her first term as a state representative in 1998, I was working as the editor of the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier, and I penned a glowing column about Twomey, describing her “a champion of the people, a fearless advocate for those with no voice within the political power structure.”

She liked me then, and she invited me to her home for a second interview in her back yard, serving fresh fruit, sandwiches and cookies. I threw journalistic ethics out the window and devoured those cookies. (They were awesome)

But as the weeks and months wore on, and as I heard other stories about Twomey and her stint as a city councilor in the early 1990s, my perception changed. I learned that she kept a political enemies list. Once I criticized her for something, my name found its way to that list.

In reality, there is only one thing Twomey cares about: her own political ambition. She refuses to be pragmatic in order to achieve goals. Instead, she conducts herself like a petulant child, stubbornly digging in her heels and shrieking that she is “principled above all else.”

While Twomey tells you that she is principled and fighting the good fight on the side of the angels, take a look at her actual track record.

1.) In 2003, she testified against a proposed casino. In her testimony before the Biddeford City Council, she said: “In my Christmas village, there is no casino.” Seven years later, when she was the mayor and facing a budget pinch because of a new school, she  suddenly flipped and quickly became a cheerleader for a another proposed casino in Biddeford.

Principled? Really?

2.) Twomey built her political career on the backs of criticizing the owners of the MERC waste-to-energy facility. In 2009, while seeking a second term as mayor, she held a press conference and was hugging the company’s owners in front of news cameras just two weeks before the election. She said they had come to terms on a solution.

Two weeks later, after securing her re-election bid, she once again reversed her position. Principled? Really?

3.) During Biddeford’s Democratic caucus in 2012, Twomey said the city needed a “real Democrat” in Augusta, failing to mention that she encouraged Democrat State Rep. Paulette Beaudoin to run for her former legislative seat.

But is she a viable candidate?

In the early 1990s, Twomey was removed by police from City Hall, following another hissy fit, when once again her rage trumped manners and decorum.  As a state representative, she cried on the House floor when she did not get her way. She is a professional victim and the consummate hypocrite.

But remember this: she has a political base of support in Biddeford. She was elected to four consecutive terms in the Maine House of Representatives. During her last two terms, she beat her Republican challenger by a 2-1 margin. Okay, so…Biddeford rarely elects Republicans and the other candidate was not much of a candidate to begin with.

She made her political comeback in 2007 by winning the mayor’s seat, but it was hardly a mandate. It was a three-way race that included two city councilors: John McCurry and Ken Farley. A mere 38 percent of the city’s voters cast ballots. Twomey won with 1,742 votes. Farley was close behind with 1,573 votes and McCurry finished with 1,052 votes.

Essentially, McCurry and Farley split the moderate vote and let Twomey slide in to office with fewer than 2,000 votes.

Her biggest political victory came two years later, when she sought a second term as mayor. In a four way race, Twomey walked away with 4,100 votes, easily outpacing second-place candidate David Flood (2,640).

Twomey seemed unstoppable. She was a political force to be reckoned with.

The Fall From Grace

In the summer of 2011, I and some other Biddeford residents decided that our city needed a change, and we rallied around another former legislator, Alan Casavant, when he decided to seek the mayor’s seat.

Casavant had also served many years on the city council and was also elected to four consecutive terms in the Maine House of Representatives. But unlike Twomey, he never cried on the State House floor. He never screamed or shrieked when he did not get his way. He is professional, mild-mannered and responsive. He was just what Biddeford needed to clean up its tarnished image.

A lot of people told us we were nuts. They said Twomey could not be defeated. Ethan Strimling chided me for mounting a campaign against a seemingly invincible candidate. Many people in Biddeford, led by Twomey, were advocating for a casino during tough economic times. They saw no other way forward for the city. Casavant had his doubts.

By any measure, Casavant’s campaign was the proverbial long shot. But guess what happened?

Casavant won that election with more than 63 percent of the vote, beating Twomey, 4,165-2,504 with a turnout of 53 percent of voters. Casavant not only beat her, he surpassed even Twomey’s best election result in 2009.

Twomey was stunned and cried before television news cameras.

In 2012, she tried to claim back her state house seat from incumbent Paulette Beaudoin. She lost that primary challenge.

In 2013, she tried to make a comeback as the city’s mayor. Again, Casavant beat her: 2,377-1043.

And last year, she gave up on the mayor’s seat and instead sought one of two at-large seats on the city council. In that five way race, Twomey came in third (1,080), well behind second-place finisher Laura Seaver (1,790)

What does the future hold?

Over the last 18 years, Twomey holds a 6-4 election record. Not that shabby, really.

By contrast, (during the same time period) Casavant holds a 7-1 record.

It remains to be seen who else will run for Dutremble’s seat. It’s a tough job that demands incredible flexibility and a tremendous amount of time with virtually no way to rival a regular income. Twomey, retired, is in a perfect position for that job.

Speaking just for me, Twomey will be a tough candidate to beat. That said, someone sent me a design of her campaign sign this morning, This sign was allegedly designed by Perry Aberle. As a professional campaign consultant, I can tell you that this one of the most horrid and ineffective campaign signs I have ever seen.

But what do I know? I’m just the Darth Vader of Biddeford.

Come to the dark side.

JT sign

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “She’s a maniac

  1. She just lost a race for an at large seat and yet she is ready to toss her jar of vaseline in the ring for a State Senate seat. Go for it. I heard that Mr. Steve Martin is tossing his hat in the ring for the same seat. Seems there could be hope for Biddeford after all?

    Like

  2. She is correct. We don’t deserve her, nor do we want that loose cannon representing us.

    If it is true she keeps a enemies list, and you are on it, I’d take it as a badge of honor.

    Like

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