Choice for governor is really between Mills and Moody

A bit by happenstance, I had the chance recently to spend about 15 minutes chatting with each of the four candidates for governor.

I like them all and enjoyed the conversations. But that doesn’t change the fact that I think Attorney General Janet Mills is the best option.

There’s the old canard that people vote for the person who they would most like to have a beer with.

If I was voting for the person I most wanted to have a beer with, that’d be easy. It’s Mills. She’s hilarious. Truly funny and a bit of a poet. I bet you could even get her to deliver a perfect – and a bit naughty – limerick.

Fishing? I’d probably go fishing with Republican Shawn Moody. I don’t know if he’s a fisherman, but he strikes me as someone who would be fun to sit with on the bank of a river or float around with on a boat. And based on his campaign rhetoric, I’d bet he’d have a really entertaining big fish tale – sketchy on details, but it would probably sound good.

Maine candidates for governor, from left, Alan Caron, Terry Hayes, Janet Mills and Shawn Moody. BDN composite

If the vote was about riding around in a boss camper and talking the nuance of arcane public policy, independent Alan Caron would be the choice. First off, he has a boss campaign camper. Secondly, he’s been talking about public policy for decades and he’s got a great personal story that everyone should hear. Implement those arcane policies? Probably not

If I were in a brawl, I’d pick Terry Hayes. It’s not that she’s necessarily tougher than the others or meaner. She just gives me that feeling that she’d be good to have on your side in a scrape.

But here’s the thing. We’re not voting about who we want to have a beer with, who we want to go fishing with, cool campers or brawling. We’re voting on who would make the best governor and what policies they would work to implement.

Between Mills, Hayes and Caron, there are nuanced differences, but all three fall into what an objective observer would classify as center left. Hayes has problems with unions, Caron is a little think-tanky, Mills comes from a tough-on-crime district attorney background.

Moody has the right side of the political field to himself. His policies, while thinly discussed, largely track with the current governor – and those are policies I just can’t support.

Does he deny climate change? Yes and no. Will he expand Medicaid? Probably not, but maybe, sort of, if there’s funding riding on the perfect magic unicorn? On abortion? He said he was pro-choice, but now he says he’s not. In a very Trumpian fashion, Moody even refuses to release his tax returns. Lots of secrecy with that one.

Voting for Moody would be a little like buying a grab bag at the fair. I’m just not 100 percent sure what we’d get – but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like most of it.

I believe that every person who wants to run for office and can meet the requirements should have a chance. But I don’t believe that voters should take them all seriously.

Caron has not gained any momentum in the race. He’s running a different kind of campaign than the others. I suspect he’s barely registering in the polls.

Hayes on the other hand is drawing just enough support to keep Moody and Mills close. She’ll tell you she’s not a spoiler. In fact, she’ll tell you that it’s Moody who can’t win. She’s wrong. There is no path to victory for her.

Hayes has my favorite TV ad of the cycle, but the both-sideism she’s pushing just isn’t a reflection of the political reality we live in. I don’t have access to recent polling, but I believe the former Democrat Hayes is pulling more votes from Mills than from Moody.

If you are left of center, a Democrat or Democratic-leaning independent, a vote for Hayes is as good as a vote for Moody.

That’s why Republicans are running ads “attacking” Hayes. It’s clear that what they are really doing is promoting a policy idea they believe will motivate left-leaning voters to pick Hayes over Mills. We’ve seen this trick before.

I get that a lot of people don’t like the two-party system, which is part of the reason why ranked choice voting won twice at the polls. It offers an alternative to the very situation we face in the governor’s race.

But we don’t have ranked choice voting in the governor’s race.

Candidates hate it when they’re called a spoiler and their supporters hate it even more. Every voter has a right to make up his or her own mind about who they want to support with their ballot.

But they should also understand the consequences.

Mills will be a check on efforts to roll back legal abortion, undo protections for gay and transgender people and economic policies that favor the wealthy over working people. She’ll do her best to expand access to health care and to improve conditions in rural parts of the state.

And she’s the only one with a chance to beat Moody – who won’t do any of those things and who keeps what he will do a mystery.

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