The Treasurer, the Secretary of State and the AG Walk into an Election

There’s a big contrast between three of the Republican candidates running to replace retiring U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.

Secretary of State Charlie Summers, Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Attorney General Bill Schneider would all like to make the transition to the U.S. Senate.

All three were swept into office during 2010’s Republican wave, and all three have worked hard to establish their conservative credentials.

But their conduct, both in office and during the campaign, creates sharp distinctions.

Poliquin has politicized the Treasurer’s Office in an unprecedented way. He executed a political vendetta against Dale McCormick, the former head of the Maine State Housing Authority. Along with others within the LePage administration, he helped to push her out.

Poliquin used every mechanism at his disposal to disparage a long-serving public servant. He and others accused her of all sorts of wrongdoing. But an independent review found that there was no evidence of anything amiss.

As the Portland Press Herald put it in an editorial Monday, “the not-guilty verdict is in, but the execution is already over.”

In addition, Poliquin has run afoul of the State Constitution, which demands that the State Treasurer devote his full attention to the office and its duties. Poliquin kept working on outside business interests and, in my opinion, continues to violate the principles of the Constitution with his campaign.

I don’t see how running a campaign for the U.S. Senate, which includes hiring people, buying things and raising money doesn’t qualify. Yet he continues forward, unconcerned about the intent of the Constitution.

Summers has also put partisan politics ahead of his duties as the state’s top election official. Last summer, in a effort coordinated with the Maine Republican Party, Summers did everything he could to make it harder for people to vote.

He used his office to fight a People’s Veto of a new law that ended same-day voter registration.  (Disclosure: I was the communications director for the campaign that restored same-day voter registration.)

With bogus reports and exaggerated press conferences, Summers did what he could to undermine confidence in Maine’s elections.

He even went so far as to send threatening letters to students in Maine trying to scare them out of exercising their right to vote.

He’s on the stump now talking about the constitution being divinely inspired, but he was less concerned last year with making sure that he used his office to protect voters from the overreaching power of the government.

Then there’s Bill Schneider. Schneider is different than the other two. He’s certainly political. He joined the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare and refused to call upon the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates on spending in elections.

I disagree with both positions. But unlike the actions of Summers and Poliquin, they don’t contribute to the politics of personal destruction and meanness that have infected today’s GOP.

While Poliquin continues to run his campaign and his business while serving as treasurer, and Summers is using his office to get his name in the newspaper, Schneider has said he will resign if nominated by the GOP to run for Sen. Snowe’s seat.

And while politics seems to trump policy – and even decency with Poliquin and Summers – Schneider has pulled no punches when it comes to prosecuting Michael Hein, a Republican candidate for the Legislature who is charged with attempted theft by deception in relation to the Maine Clean Election Act and public financing for his campaign.

The Republican Primary is crowded and Schneider is not particularly well known.

Despite an impressive resume that includes service in Army Special Forces and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney working on terrorism cases, not a lot of people know much about Schneider.

With much of the Republican establishment coalescing around Rick Bennett and the Ron Paul crowd growing increasingly influential in GOP politics, it’s anyone’s guess who will capture the nomination.

But from a Democrat’s point of view, the pro-choice Schneider looks like a strong General Election candidate.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at