Maine Strikes A Blow For Democracy
Inherited political power is a big problem in both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Since the advent of campaign finance reform thirty years ago, elective office has become restricted substantially to the personally wealthy and candidates with relatives in high office.
Just look around at the races this year, especially in the Northeast. Mitt Romney, the son of Michigan Governor and presidential candidate George Romney, is the Governor of Massachusetts. John Chafee is fighting hard to defend the United States Senate seat he inherited from his father. Hillary Clinton in running for Senate in New York. Tom Kean, Jr., the son of the former Governor, is running for Senate in New Jersey and Bob Casey, Jr, the son of the former Governor, is running for the Senate in Pennsylvania. Not to mention the millionaires.
In my own constituency, for example, the Mercer County Executive is Brian Hughes is the son of former Governor Harold Hughes. My congressman, Rush Holt, is the son of a United States Senator from West Virginia. My assembly representative, Bonnie Watson-Coleman, is the daughter of a former assemblyman. On my local borough council is Peggy Karcher, the widow of former Assembly Speaker (when Tom Kean, Sr. was Governor) Alan Karcher and mother of State Senator Ellen Karcher; Wendy Benchley, widow of author Peter Benchley who wrote JAWS, and Roger Martindell, the son of a former Ambassador.
Although this is not a scientific study, anecdotal evidence indicates that the relatives and millionaires are controlling public office all over the United States.
So, it was especially heart warming to notice that in 2004 in the races for State Representative, both Torbert MacDonald, the namesake of the Massachusetts Congressman and Caspar Weinberger, Jr.; the son of Reagan's Secretary of Defense, failed to be elected to the Maine Legislature.
Maine has barely 1,000,000 voters and it has 150 State Representatives. That means that each representative represents about 7,000 adults, with 3,000 or 4,000 votes needed for victory. In District 35, Caspar Weinberger, Jr. lost 3,632 to 1,874; while in District 150, Torbert MacDonald was losing 3,262 to 1,838. Weinberger is a Republican and MacDonald is a Democrat. They ran in different districts. Yet, they both lost, one getting 1,874 and the other 1,832.
Maine is a great state. It is the state that made Bush, Sr. run third in 1992. It is the state that blew the whistle on George W. Bush's drunken driving conviction (and Laura has killed someone in a car crash.) The great thing about Maine is, they don't hold the Bushes against the Republican Party.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf