Franklin Countys First News

Political marginalia

By John Frary

John Frary

John Frary

The big, the really BIG news from the primary elections was Rep. Eric Cantor’s “stunning” “staggering,” “shocking,” “ historic,” defeat in Virginia’s Seventh District. Apart from the fact that no congressional majority leader has ever suffered defeat at the hands of his own party’s voters, Rep. Cantor spent $5,700,000 against David Brat’s $231,000 and received 44.45 percent of the vote to his opponent’s 55.55 percent. It’s reported that Cantor spent more money on meals for his staff and supporters than Brat spent on his whole campaign. So, not all of Cantor’s expenditures were wasted.

Here is some of the news neglected by big-time journalists. First, David Brat spent $70,000 less than I spent in John Frary’s 2008 congressional race. Second, although evidence is incomplete it appears that Brat was even less known than I. Third, the Koch brothers—feared by liberal Democrats as the universal spiders of the Radical Right—had no role in Brat’s victory.
They favored Cantor.

The most amazing marginal effect of the Virginia upset was Chris Matthews observation that “This looking down our noses at Tea Party people has got to stop. They have a message, they're as American as any liberal is, and they're really angry about the failure of the system. He also pointed out that Brat “is very sophisticated for a politician. He's certainly up to the ranks of most politicians I've ever dealt with. He speaks in a speculative manner and an intellectual manner. He can handle any debate on this program or my program.” Now Chris Matthews is not himself a marginal figure but this evaluation will soon slip into the margins of media thought. Too much effort has gone into painting a picture of the Tea Party as a rabble of rampaging, racist, neanderthals for Matthews’ liberal colleagues to allow its modification.

Here are some statistics which have received very marginal notice. Since August 2011, the overall disapproval rating of Congress has hovered somewhere between 9 and 18 percent. Those are the worst numbers ever received and they never waver by much. Is it likely that this disgust with Congress had no significant effect on the vote for one of its most prominent leaders?

The big news in Franklin County was the write-in vote for Joanne Karkos. A series of accidents and missteps left the Franklin County Republican Committee without a candidate for county treasurer. Charlie Webster found that Joanne Karkos, who has what it takes to do the job, but who very shortly will have no job (the USPS will end it when they close the East Dixfield Post Office), was willing to run. To get her name on the November general election ballot, the committee needed 300 voters to write her name in on their primary ballots. Few people knowledgeable about write-in elections thought that possible. Reasonable but wrong. The incomplete count now stands at 457.

Pam Prodan, the Democratic candidate for county treasurer has submitted a complaint to the
Maine Commission on Governmental and Election Practices. Jonathan Wayne, the Commission’s executive director was not available last week, and I was referred to a young woman who was too new on her job to tell me if anybody had ever before submitted any kind of complaint about a county treasurer campaign. We chatted a bit and she agreed that her job description did not include “have a sense of humor” but that it ought to.

We can understand Ms. Prodan’s bitterness. Here she was, all set to walk into a job with a nice little supplement to her income without an opponent in sight. Perhaps she even dreamed of laying the foundations for a brilliant political career leading to the Blaine House.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the poor woman faces an opponent who could lay waste all her hopes and dreams.

Pam Prodan’s a lawyer. It’s no surprise that her first instinct led her to legal pettifoggery. Dredging through the Maine Clean Election Act statute and Chapter 3 of the Ethics Commission Rules she found grounds for accusing Ms. Karkos of failing to file a financial report detailing the cost of a handful of “yard” signs and of the cards circulated to explain the “write-in” process. These cards were produced by Ruby Hardy, our vice chair, on her home computer. The yard signs were paid from Joanne’s own credit card.

The Ethics Commission was established to “guard against corruption and undue influence of the election process by state, county, and certain municipal elected officials by adopting procedures, rules, and regulations to conduct its duties promptly, fairly, and efficiently.”

Ms Prodan thinks she has sniffed out “corruption and undue influence” in a write-in campaign for Franklin County treasurer? Does she believe the Koch brothers financed those signs? We can only guess.

The identification of Bruce Poliquin with the Tea Party is not marginal. It is central to the Democrats’ strategy for defeating him. Here, however, is a fact that will remain marginal. Bruce scheduled one speech to a Tea Party rally, but could not make it. He asked me to speak in his place.

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6 Responses »

  1. Pam- really? Let the election proceed, for goodness sake.
    On the subject of Bruce Poliquin, it's much the same as when we sent our delegation for Ron Paul two years ago: if the biased media can label rather than talk ideas, the average citizen can be left in the dark as to what the real message is. Hence what we see is a big push to define the candidate Poliquin multiple times (in one article) as "conservative tea party", thus no further information is needed... although nobody really knows what THAT means, anyway. Intriguingly, the Bangor Daily News also called him "from away (southern Maine)"!
    It's a real mystery how people calling for liberty, constitutionality, smaller government, and elimination of deficit spending (debt expansion) are painted as "extreme right" and "uncompromising" by the mainstream media, who never actually report the substance. The real message appeals to the majority of people who take the time to listen, because they realize what a precarious place our current leaders have brought our nation to.

  2. I agree 100%, Tony. But I have to disagree with the Professor on one point: The squirming by the media, most of it, is hardly marginal. I really enjoy their obvious discomfort at being forced to report fact instead of opinion. Since the birth of the Tea Party, 'extreme' was the least extreme adjective in any "news" item. It was usually overwhelmed by racist, misogynist, anti-poor, and anti-immigrant. Did I miss any?

    The Tea Party exists because government, especially our federal government, brought on itself an approval rating almost too low to measure. And yet, for years the media has claimed that the Tea Party had taken over, so they could label as extreme anyone to the right of Mike Michaud - and as saintly anyone to his left.

    Extremists did take over - in 2008. They had to yield back some conquered territory in 2010. They held on in 2012 precisely because of the backward labeling. Calling John McCain an extremist is laughable.

    Here we are in 2014 where a couple of primaries have the Republican establishment terrified - and the media squirming. Both have only themselves to blame.

  3. I've been calling some reporters to find who has actually attended a TP rally, what information they have about the Parties and where that information comes from. I've read some analyses (most recently from the NYT) which discuss the phenomenon without mentioning the Constitution even once. I remember an academic symposium from a couple of years ago which was equally ignorant. This strikes me as at least 20,000 leagues below preposterous.

  4. John, please inform Mike LeBlanc (and one of our local newspapers) that you're not a professor, seeing as how one needs to HAVE the job of professor at some institution of higher "learning" to be a professor. When one quits the job, one looses the title (i.e., ex-presidents Bush and Clinton). Just "professing" (good or bad) doesn't make one a professor as most people think they understand the term. One must keep one's identity clear and unsullied by misunderstanding; not good to impress people by inappropriately using a title. Dr. King and Dr. Rice of past eras were actually real "doctors"; doctoral degree holders, that is. Perhaps you are too, but I think you said not to me once. Of course, if one is a "professor emeritus" one can probably be justified as claiming the title in retirement. And, as you know, being a "doctor" doesn't mean one remains a professor. You enjoy a discourse, so perhaps you'll elaborate on this.

  5. Mike LeBlanc: Jim Parker has requested me to inform you that I’m not a professor. As he explains above, I am not being paid for my efforts to educate, i.e., I ‘m not paid to do a professing job. Nor am I a professor emeritus. So now you know.

    Jim proposes I elaborate on this fact, but I see nothing upon which to elaborate. I am not a professor according to the rules he states. So now you know.

    The admonition Jim. Parker directed to me----“One must keep one's identity clear and unsullied by misunderstanding; not good to impress people by inappropriately using a title”—requires some explanation.

    I have identified myself on more than one occasion as a “chalk-smeared foot soldier in the academic ranks” or as a mere “drover of undergraduates.” This is, at least, inconsistent with an urge to “impress people.”

    So why “professor?” The root of the mis-titling weighing so heavily on Jim’s mind is this. When I ran for Congress in 2008 with no reasonable expectation of victory I had the liberty to mock all established rules of campaigning. One of them is the assumption that voters want a candidate regular-guy candidate who will lead them to the Promised Land, sort of a Moses with a baseball cap. Nobody campaigns as Professor This of That because Professors are not seen as regular guys.

    So I defied the convention and campaigned as Professor Frary. Actually I much prefer to be known as “El Supremo”but people just made fun of me when wore a plastic name tag with that title. So Professor Frary has stuck, as allowed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  6. Gee, I haven't looked in here for a few days and had no idea I had precipitated such a kerfuffle.

    Mr. Parker, to use the politically correct phrasing, I apologize if you are disturbed by my use of the innocent honorific professor; if you are not, I do not.

    Mr. Frary, thank you for the elaboration. We seem to live in times when the unnecessary has become necessary, like the warning label on my circular saw: "Do not swallow!"

    To you both, I must confess to some minor discomfort at the inappropriate use of aged titles - for example, whenever some fawning interviewer refers to she-who-would-be-queen {*} as Madame Secretary. But, at this late date, what difference does it make?

    For the time being, I retain for myself the title "lecturer emeritus of the Department of Pedantics". It is not proper to say one looses the title - it is one loses the title.

    {*} Should that be her-who-would-be-queen?