May 23, 2019


John Frary’s colorful campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Mike Michaud has been, by turns, amusing, confusing, frustrating – and finally, disappointing.

The Republican candidate may have concluded from studying Maine electoral history that once someone wins re-election to statewide or federal office in Maine, he or she is rarely defeated. Rep. Michaud is seeking his fourth term. Facing those odds, Mr. Frary may have decided to simply have fun with the race, by indulging a desire to play a 21st century Will Rogers or Mark Twain. Some observers might grant him that right and savor his romp through the electoral season for its entertainment value. But those who value the viability of the Republican party in Maine should not be laughing.

Mr. Frary, a retired professor, has taken an unorthodox approach in his bid for votes. For that alone he should not be disparaged, but his message is mixed. He purchases quarter page advertisements in weekly newspapers and multiple pages in some Maine magazines, and fills them with wordy first-person commentary that veers from wry and humorous biographical anecdotes to vitriolic and dismissive shots at his opponent and the Democratic Party.

If Mr. Frary is as serious about trying to unseat Rep. Michaud as he insists, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. It’s a confused message at best, and a vain attempt at comedy at worst.

The fallout to this approach comes when Prof. Frary offers what is presumably a serious energy proposal, building an oil refinery at the former Loring Air Force base in Limestone. Under his plan, crude oil would be offloaded in Searsport and piped, trucked or shipped by rail the 200 miles north to Limestone. It’s not clear why private industry would want to invest in a refinery so far from supply and markets, or how that would help Mainers paying high fuel prices. Is he serious, or is this an arm-chair brainstorm?

Prof. Frary’s candidacy is not asking whether Rep. Michaud represents the 2nd District well. Instead, that candidacy stands as an indictment of the state Republican party. Former party leader Alex Ray recently told Maine Public Radio the party has no leadership. When he ran the party, Mr. Ray said, “I was a SOB. I cracked a whip and made people dance.” Mr. Ray suggested the party should work harder to recruit respected, well-known candidates.

The viability of the Maine Republican Party is good for Maine. Government works best when the good of intentions of one party are tempered by the wariness of the other. Prof. Frary’s candidacy, sadly, does not fit into this dynamic.

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