Tardy making serious moves toward running for Congress

Former state House Minority Leader turned powerful lobbyist, Josh Tardy, has started making serious moves toward running for Congress in the 2nd District. Moves that make it clear a bid is likely in the cards for this Palmyra native and Newport resident.

According to a source very close to the candidate, Tardy has set up meetings with high level officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC is the arm of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s operation that helps elect Republicans to the House of Representatives). Tardy also has retained a Republican strategy firm with strong ties to Maine, is interviewing potential DC fundraisers, and just recently met with a number of GOP politicos and business people who strongly encouraged him to run.

Perhaps most importantly, he has also begun calling potential donors to let them know he is gearing up for a potential run and asking them to hold their contributions meant for others in case he runs. My understanding is those donors are indeed willing to wait.

Steps like the above are only taken by candidates who are almost certain to enter a race. Barring something unexpected, I would expect Josh to publically declare his intentions by Labor Day.

This news obviously has many repercussions. The first is whether Kevin Raye decides to run. Josh and Kevin are close (I believe that Tardy was Raye’s finance chair when he ran for Congress in 2012) and I can’t imagine they will run against each other. Raye would certainly be formidable in this race, having run strong campaigns twice for the seat. But his family is dealing with some health issues so he might be happy to have Tardy take the torch.

Aroostook County Rep. Alex Willette, who has already announced, will have to reconsider his entry into the race. Not sure if Alex has the maturity to understand his inability to win, but he will get crushed by the Tardy machine (Tardy is responsible for Republicans winning the majority in the House for the first time in 40 years). Alex would be much better served by staying a representative and continuing his promising career in the House and then perhaps the state Senate.

Richard Rosen, another moderate like Tardy, is strongly considering his options and has not ruled out running, but I think he will also have to think twice about entering. Richard is a class act and he might be able to make some inroads, but two moderates may be one too many for the conservative Republican primary. With both he and Tardy in the race, that could split the vote electing neither, and ultimately electing a right-winger like Bruce Poliquin (see below). I am quite sure Richard does not like the rightward tilt of his party and wouldn’t want to assist in that kind of outcome.

Deb Plowman may still consider running, but she ran such a lackluster campaign when she ran for U.S. Senate last year that she’ll be hard pressed to demonstrate how this campaign will be different.

The one candidate I don’t see Tardy’s announcement affecting is Blaine Richardson, who has also already announced that he will run. While he did receive 34% of the vote against Raye in 2012, I expect most of that was simply an anti-establishment vote. I wouldn’t expect him to come close to those numbers this time and he will probably end up being a non-factor except that he will split the hard core conservative vote. I have heard there is some pressure to get him to run against Collins, but my understanding is that he has said no way.

That leaves former Maine Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. The once (but not for at least 20 years) and maybe future 2nd District resident. Everything I hear is that he will also enter the race, although I have no confirmation of his political maneuvering.

If this plays out as I think, it basically leaves this a two-person race between the moderate Tardy and the very right-wing Poliquin for the Republican primary. Poliquin certainly will start with much more name recognition and plenty of personal wealth to bankroll his campaign. And honestly, every Democrat in Maine would like to see him win the primary, as his controversy-ridden past (tree growth violations and multiple conflicts of interest as Maine Treasurer) will be much easier to beat in a general election.

Tardy is excellent at retail politics and equally good at one-on-one relationship building/fundraising. That said, I don’t know if he will be able to overcome Poliquin’s name/money advantage, but maybe for the good of the state we should be rooting for Tardy. If the unthinkable occurs and a Republican actually takes the northern Maine seat for the first time in 20 years, Poliquin would simply be too much to bear.

Posted by Ethan Strimling