At first glance, former Speaker of the House Mark Eves might just be the complete opposite of our current Governor.
Paul LePage has always been a geyser of bile and bluster. He says racist things, sexist things, anti-immigrant things. He’s cut thousands of low income workers off of their healthcare. He’s insulted public school teachers, saying they were a “dime a dozen.” The guy even got drunk one night and called up a state legislator just to call him a “cock sucker.”
Mark Eves, on the other hand, comes across as a nice guy with a nice family. He listens. He seems to want to do well by everybody. Maine can be a rough place. Would it really be so bad if we had a Governor who made Maine look a bit more like the state advertised in the L.L. Bean catalog?
Eves was born in California and trained to be a marriage counselor at a seminary in Kentucky before moving to Maine with his wife in 2002 when he was 25. In 2008, Eves ran for the Maine House of Representatives and went on to serve there for eight years, including his final four as the Speaker of the House.
As a legislator, Eves worked hard toward a bunch of good things like giving raises to the state’s direct-care workers and helping to build housing for Maine’s elderly, but ultimately, much of his work came to no avail. In fact, as Chris Cousins recently broke down in his column last week, pretty much none of the major things that Eves accomplished in his years in the State House have had much of a lasting impact or even come to fruition particularly.
But, despite all of that, Eves continues to be adored by many Maine Democrats, especially the more middle class members of our Party. Personally, however, I’m just not drinking the Kool-Aid.
For example, Eves is proudly “taking on” the NRA, swearing never to take a single cent from them, declaring that he’s going to drive them out of Maine once and for all. But, let’s be honest. They’re an easy target, especially in the Democratic primary. The NRA was never going to give campaign contributions to a candidate like Eves. As I see it, nothing is as easy as biting a hand that was never going to feed you in the first place. And, in any case, taking a hard line against the gun lobby is a far cry from having the political capacity to pass any sort of comprehensive gun safety legislation in one of the most pro-gun states in the country.
When it comes to standing up to the corporate interests who actually do wield an unsettling amount of influence within the Democratic Party, like Nestle, General Dynamics and Irving, Eves knows better than to open his mouth and risk losing potential campaign contributions from any of the people profiting off those corporations. As such, is it any surprise that Eves jumped at the chance to support Hillary Clinton in 2016?
At a time at which so many of our fellow Mainers work around the clock, only to end up feeling rejected and excluded, if Eves does get our nomination, I have a hard time believing that very many people outside of the Democratic Party are about to hop on his overblown bandwagon.
In comparison to Eves, Republican frontrunner Shawn Moody is an undeniable poster boy for the self-made business man. Moody started out fixing cars as a teenager and grew his business into one of the largest chains of auto body shops in this part of the country. While I’m personally terrified of the things he might do from the Blaine House, my sense is there are lots of blue collar rural Mainers who harbor fantasies of their sons growing up to be just like him. I doubt almost any of them believe their kid could ever really become like Mark Eves, nor would they want him to.
Having observed Eves on the campaign trail for most of the last year, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s the kind of person who looks comfortable behind a campaign podium and horribly out of place almost everywhere else in this state. I’d love to see Eves walk into the Elks Lodge in Sanford and try to “empathize.” My guess is hell would freeze over before any of the burly former mill workers there would ever look up at him from their Budweisers long enough to even consider voting for him.
I’ve been working on political campaigns since I was a teenager, and I think my biggest concern is that I just don’t think I, or any other field organizer I know, will have the skills to get the average voter, who isn’t already a cheerleader for the Democrats, excited about voting for Mark Eves.
The things Eves says might sound good in a vacuum, but I just don’t think a nice smile and a progressive message alone will be enough for us to win in November.
Disclosure: I’m close friends with State Senator Mark Dion, who is also currently running for Governor, and have been helping with his campaign. Mark also paid me a few thousand dollars over the winter to coordinate the signature drive to get him on the ballot.