In what could only be recognized as the biggest Maine political story of the 21st century, I received a tip yesterday that made me question reality: Former Speaker and lifelong Democrat John L. Martin of Eagle Lake had turned Republican and was running in a primary against Republican Rep. Allen Michael Nadeau of Fort Kent for House seat 151!
I immediately asked for evidence, saying to myself, “not possible.” For those who may have been living under a rock for the past 40 years of Maine politics, John Martin is perhaps the most infamous legislative Democrat in the state of Maine. He became the second youngest speaker in Maine history, yanking the gavel from basically 60 years of Republican rule (Dems had it for only two years from 1917 to 1975), and then held onto it for the longest tenure of any speaker (he had a bit of a controversial downfall, but we’ll leave that for another day).
But my tipster told me to go to the Secretary of State’s website and check it out. So I did. I went to the website, clicked on “upcoming elections,” went to the link for primary candidates that listed everyone in an excel spreadsheet, scrolled down to candidates for House seat 151 and here’s what I found (note “Party”):
I couldn’t believe it. Martin becoming a Republican would be like Muskie, Mitchell, or Michaud leaving the party. It would be like Newt Gingrich, George Bush, or Ronald Reagan become one of ours. Unthinkable.
My first thought was that this must be some kind of Machiavellian scheme. He is perhaps the smartest politician in Maine and maybe he knows something about election law whereby he could beat Nadeau in a primary and then somehow switch back, thereby ensuring he had no general election fight.
Or maybe he thought Republicans were going to win the majority, so he would pretend to be one of them, become chair of a powerful committee and then undermine their every move.
Or perhaps Martin simply wanted to seek revenge against the Republicans who spent $70,000 smearing him last time out (the state Ethics Commission also unanimously found Nadeau himself had violated state election law a day before the election), by beating one of their own from within their own ranks.
But, in the end, none of it made sense. Martin couldn’t give up a lifetime of Democratic party affiliation for any of the above. Plus, he knows he can win just by running as a Democrat.
So I called him.
“What! Where the hell’d you see that? Of course I’m a Democrat!” he exclaimed.
I explained the situation and he proceeded to say it must have been a typo. He registered with the SOS Friday morning, as a Democrat.
I immediately called Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who declared “R is too damn close to D on the keyboard!” and said it would be fixed shortly.
The world is back in alignment.
Posted by Ethan Strimling