By 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.