Laurie Dobson of Kennebunkport
Dobson’s platform includes ending the war in Iraq, impeaching President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, and placing a five-year moratorium on home foreclosures in the US. The 51-year-old mother of three, whose husband suffers from brain cancer, ran for Connecticut State Assembly in 2002 as a Democrat, and lost. She says she’s about halfway done collecting the 4000 signatures she needs by May to get on the ballot in November.
Herb Hoffman of Ogunquit
“Our country is in crisis, economically, and internationally because of the destruction we’ve done to our international reputation,” Hoffman tells the Phoenix. The former psychologist, 75, is a Dennis Kucinich campaigner; the two politicians’ ideas on ending the war, impeachment, and protecting Constitutional rights are very much in line. The father of two served in the US Army during the Korean War.
Ed Cohen of Waterville
Cohen, 60, is a bit of a mystery. When the Phoenix asked him to supply us with a campaign photo, he responded by sending us nine pictures of moose in the wild. (Later he sent us some low-resolution photos, including the one seen here.) But while his personal life remains shrouded, his platform is clear: What Ron Paul said. He’s against raising taxes, against the war, and pro-impeachment. Although he used to be a Democrat (and was a Kucinich delegate in 2004), he claims that these days, “you will not find a man or woman who is more conservative than Ed Cohen.”
Tom LeDue of Springvale
LeDue, a former teacher and school administrator, grew up in Portland and now lives in Springvale with his wife and four daughters. LeDue, 44, has four (rather sweeping) major policy goals: “Empower our people. Strengthen our communities. Build a stable, sustainable economy. Assert collaborative national and international leadership.” He supports replacing American troops in Iraq with an international peacekeeping force within 12 months
Just a few months ago, the story-line of Maine’s 2008 US Senate race seemed inevitable. Republican incumbent Susan Collins would defend her seat against popular Democratic Representative Tom Allen; the two would face off about the war in Iraq, with Allen aggressively marketing himself as the anti-war, anti-Bush candidate — but his attacks would barely stick.
Having only each other to worry about, these pre-ordained duelers would continue their unfettered fundraising (by the end of 2007, they already had a combined $7.5 million in the bank, according to Federal Election Commission reports). Nationally, bloggers and party activists would persist in seeing this contest as a battle between bigwigs for a vulnerable Republican senate seat — and Collins, who’s led in early polls, would ultimately keep her seat.
But over the past couple of months, the political landscape has changed dramatically. Between December 2007 and February, four non-establishment candidates tossed their names into the ring. Their presence could rewrite parts of this election narrative — not by changing the race’s outcome, but by changing its route.
All of a sudden, there will be primaries in both parties, where political observers expected none. Allen will face fellow Democrat and political neophyte Tom LeDue, and Collins may have to bat away “Ron Paul Republican” Ed Cohen. The victors of those primaries will likely face both independent leftist candidates, Herb Hoffman and Laurie Dobson — either of whom could prove slightly damaging for the Democratic nominee.
It’s true that so far, none of these outsider candidates has inspired particular confidence among voters or analysts — in large part, the pack is struggling to earn money and name recognition, as well as to gather signatures (to get those names on the ballot). None of them strike fear into the hearts of the mainstream candidates, who so far, have adopted strategies of ignoring the outsiders completely.
“Frankly these . . . candidates make Don Quixote’s tilting at windmills seem rational,” Colby College government professor L. Sandy Maisel writes in an e-mail to the Phoenix. “Mainers have a history of giving a good deal of support to non-major party candidates when there is a logical reason to do so.”
But a closer look reveals that even a limited impact will help guarantee that the seat stays in Susan Collins’s Republican clutches, defying early predictions that Democrats could pick up a US Senate seat in Maine this year. The one good thing to come of all this? The four additional candidacies may push Collins and/or Allen on particular policy issues even if it doesn’t cost Collins her seat.
Throughout 2007, activists visited Tom Allen’s Portland office to chastise the congressman for not coming out strongly enough against the Iraq War (and for Congress continuing to fund it). They also encouraged him to seek impeachment hearings against President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney — something that Allen has refused to do. His shortcomings in these areas seem egregious enough to alienate some liberal voters who would otherwise support Allen in his bid to unseat a Bush-apologist Republican.