One resignation, many ripples

Ethan: Did you hear the news that Democratic state Sen. Seth Goodall of Sagadahoc County is resigning at the end of the session to become the New England administrator for the Small Business Administration?

Phil: I did indeed. Has he ever even created a business or signed the front of a paycheck?

Ethan: As a matter of fact, he has. He and his brother started a landscaping business a number of years ago that still exists. Plus, as an attorney, he has advised businesses on legal issues.

Phil: My sources tell me he has been scheming for this appointment for quite some time. I wonder why he would walk away from the Senate majority leader position, but I digress. What are the political dynamics at play with this resignation?

Ethan: Actually, pretty significant. First, he is giving up a swing district seat that, if it went to Republicans, would reduce the Democratic majority to 18 seats, the minimum needed for a majority.

Phil: I can sense every Republican senator salivating as they think about leading committees again.

Ethan: Second, as you mention, he opens up the majority leader position, which means an intra-party battle to fill his position.

Phil: I can imagine how every Senate Democrat is dreaming about themselves as the next majority leader.

Ethan: Third, the Democratic frontrunner and most likely candidate is Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. If he wins, his majority leader seat opens up for 90 Democrats to all think of themselves as the next leader.

Phil: Wow! Now I can feel both of us wringing our hands at all the political intrigue we can follow and comment on in the coming months!

Ethan: My guess on the Democratic leadership side is that Sen. Emily Cain of Orono runs to fill the empty Senate leadership seat and wins. She has solid experience from the House, and she’s from the Bangor area, which is currently not represented in leadership. Plus, we desperately need a woman in leadership, as the current cast from both parties is all men. On the House side I think Mark Dion of Portland would replace Berry, as he was the runner up last time.

Phil: Hold your horses there, big guy. Berry may be running for the seat, but he is far from a shoe-in to win. He’s pretty liberal, and this has been a traditionally Republican seat. Goodall is the first Democrat to win it since before ties were 6-inches wide.

Ethan: True, but that district has seen a tide of blue in recent years. In fact, the entire delegation from the area is now Democratic. But tell me, what are you hearing on the Republican side?

Phil: Mum’s the word. Behind the scenes, I think Republicans are trying to sort out who will emerge and not have to go through the cost of a primary campaign leaving Republicans with a loser who will take his or her supporters with them.

Ethan: Well, heck, if you won’t say it I will. Rumors abound that your former colleague Republican Mary Small is looking to make a comeback. This is her old seat, and the borders have barely changed since the Dark Ages when you two served together.

Phil: Small was my seatmate. I marveled at her ability to conduct legislation, while balancing the needs of her district, and her beliefs that government should be efficient and dedicated to K-12 education. If she has the passion to run, she would be the frontrunner.

Ethan: Rumor also has it that perennial candidate Republican Bruce Poliquin is thinking of making another attempt at buying public office.

Phil: Poliquin is effusive, a warrior, and when you include his campaign experience and personal resources, even your team would admit he would be tough to beat.

Ethan: The guy came in fourth in Sagadahoc County in the Republican primary for governor three years ago. Not sure that your party even wants him.

Phil: Well, he came in second against Charlie Summers last year in a six-way Republican primary for former Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat, so they might be warming up to him. Plus, he gracefully transferred support to the winner in both his losses and has stayed engaged with public policy.

Ethan: Actually, a sleeper for your party might be former Rep. Kerri Prescott. She’s a pretty reasonable Republican (is that a contradiction in terms?) who used to represent Topsham, a cornerstone of the votes needed to win. However, she stepped down from her seat last election, so I am not sure she wants to run.

Phil: Boy, if you thought the November 2012 election was intense, this one will boil over, don’t you think? There will be tons of boots on the ground and big money to win this special election because it will become a bellwether signal of the legislative and gubernatorial elections in 2014.

Ethan: You mean like when Democratic Sen. Chris Johnson of Somerville took the Republican stronghold of District 20 in a special election in 2011 and how it portended the quick end of Republican rule within the year?

Phil: My point exactly. So much money and energy will pour into this race that no one will opine that anyone took this election for granted. Republicans will use that election as a reminder that voting history and name recognition is minuscule in comparison to organization and voter turnout.

Ethan: You’re wiser than I thought. Thankfully, my party is pretty good at the ground game and door-to-door contact. Our key will be messaging and ensuring the race is about our local positive values for the district.

Phil: As your standard bearer Tip O’Neil is famous for saying, “all politics is local.” But in this case, the impact of this one resignation could impact Maine well beyond Sagadahoc County.