By campaigning emmet
David Emery has always been a political hero of mine. No one in the state of Maine, least of all me, gave him a snowball’s chance when the Rockland Republican had the unadulterated nerve to challenge Democrat incumbent Peter Kyros for the first Congressional District in 1975.
Kyros was as entrenched as you can get, a four-term incumbent in the office since 1967.
Truth be told, Emery got the nomination because no one else wanted to waste their time in a losing proposition. But Emery jumped the chance after a few terms in the State House. He adopted Bill Cohen’s walk-across-the-district and strode across the district, Kittery to Rockland.
Truth be told, Kyros had an accident in D. C. and smashed into something like eight parked cars. This did not aid his campaign effort. He was so confident that he ordered a beer during a Rockland press conference. And drank it.
On election night, Emery sat in the cellar of radio station WRKD (next to the NEWS office) and used something like a computer to keep track of each voting district. At one point he announced that he would win.
Some of us snickered.
As Paul H Mills reported in the Sun Journal, “Kyros in the debate thus came across by contrast to the more slowly-speaking Downeast-drawling Emery as brash and patronizing. One issue, for example, was the size and potential delinquency of Emery’s campaign debt. Kyros at one point offered to help Emery pay it off even while at the same time ridiculing him for it.”
But Emery did win, even though two recounts and became the youngest Congressman ever elected from Maine. He also became a darling of the NEWS editors, since he was a hometown boy (and a Republican). Because I worked in the Rockland bureau, the only bureau in the First Congressional District, I was assigned to cover his races.
This was much better than covering the Rockland City Council or the zoning board of appeals in Warren, even the “selectboard” (honest to God) in Camden.
Each October, I was forced to spend a week (maybe two) on the road with the candidates. Portland was emerging from a gritty fishing city into a nationally recognized “foodie” center. I tried to keep up. On special occasions, Waldo Walt would share the election duties. From Portland. On the company dime.
Thank you David.
Emery was no spell binder on the road, but the people loved him. He won four consecutive races and would still be in the seat if he wanted it. But he made the very bad decision to run against George Mitchell for Senator. Waldo Walt still maintains that Emery could be speaker of the House by now if he stayed in the lower house.
That became a common malady in the First District.
Emery was replaced by a man named John McKernan, another Bangor favorite. I was assigned to cover his races. From Portland. On the company dime.
McKernan was far behind in the polls in that 1982 race to Democrat John Kerry. On the last weekend before the election, the Press Herald reported that Kerry was a C. O. during the Vietnam War. KcKernan won in a 2 a.m. squeaker. Mckernan decided to run for governor and was replaced by a governor called Joe Brennan who beat H. Rollin Ives by 53 percent, then edged “Cousin” Edward S. O’Meara by 60 percent. Then Brennan, too thought he should run for U. S. Senator.
Tom Andrews came out of nowhere in 1991 and beat back Emery by 60 percent, then beat someone called Linda Bean by 64. Bean had quashed the political aspirations of South Thomaston’s John Purcell, who was so mad he moved to South Carolina. Andrews, of course, decided to run for U. S. Senator.
Talk about coming out of nowhere. James Longley Jr came out of the woods to beat former State Senate President Dennis “Duke” Dutremble by a close 51 percent. On stops across the district, people assumed that Longley was the former Independent governor. He did little to dissuade them that his father was long gone.
Tom Allen barely survived a 1996 primary challenge by Dale McCormick (51-48), one of my favorite races. Allen then killed all comers, including incumbent Longley by 55 percent, Ross J. Connelly by 60 percent, Jane Amero by 59 percent and Steven Joyce by 63 percent. Then he decided to run for U. S. Senator.
Another hometown candidate, Chellie Pingree emerged from North Haven to beat Charlie Summers by 59 percent, Darlene Curley by 60 percent, Summer again by 54 percent, then Dean Scondras by a mere 56 percent, then buried Jon Courtney by 65 percent.
I covered most of the races until Chellie came on the scene. Some days you would watch the candidate shake hands at dawn at Bath Iron Works, and then cover a dinner speech at 9 p.m. Some days you would cover a noon Rotary speech and have the rest of the October day all to yourself.
In Portland. On the company dime.
Thank you David. I couldn’t have done it without you.