Maine State Senator Peter Mills

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No Mills, no chance for GOP

By Bill Nemitz
Portland Press Herald November 8, 2006

Memo to Maine Republicans:

Maybe it's too soon, being the morning after the election and all. Still, someone has to say it.

You blew it. You had the Blaine House within reach -- and you let it slip away.

No, we're not just talking about Republican Chandler Woodcock's campaign -- vapid as it was -- to oust Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

No, dear Republicans, your error goes all the way back to the primary: Had you chosen State Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, as your gubernatorial nominee last June, you might well be holding the keys to the Blaine House this morning.

Remember Mills? He's the normally upbeat guy who spent much of Tuesday wincing.

Turns out he arrived at the polls early to ask folks to send him back to the state Senate -- and darned if some didn't grab his hand, look him square in the eye and say, "It should have been you against Baldacci, Peter. It should have been you."

"Some of them even said they were going to write me in," Mills said with a wistful smile.

Poppycock, you say? Talk to the Democrats and they'll tell you the day Woodcock won the GOP primary by a mere 2,432 votes over Mills, Baldacci & Co. breathed big a sigh of relief.

The Dems knew that Woodcock, with his way-right views on abortion, creationism in the classroom and gay rights, was beatable.

They also knew that Mills, on the other hand, was electable: A fiscal conservative whose social views border on (dare we say) liberal. A true moderate at a time when voters are pleading for an end to the partisan bickering. A tad wonky at times, but (unlike Woodcock) a man with a plan. Make that a 12-point plan.

Still not convinced? Check out this morning's numbers, particularly those of independent Barbara Merrill.

OK, we'll concede that Merrill was a safe alternative for Democrats who'd lost their appetite for yet another Election Night spaghetti feed at Mama Baldacci's.

But what about all those Republican women (starting with GOP stalwart Sherry Huber and her anti-Chandler TV ad) who didn't like Woodcock's opposition to a woman's right to choose an abortion? Might those same women have stayed the GOP course with the pro-choice Mills?

At the risk of rubbing it in, we must also point out that Peter Mills would not have come with an October surprise.

News that Woodcock was late paying his sewer bills and income tax was indeed embarrassing. But his failure to reveal his financial woes on his own terms early on -- and possibly turn them into a positive -- well, that's just poor judgment.

Speaking of which, we recently took a peek at the conservative Web site "As Maine Goes." Not surprisingly, the chat room was abuzz with frantic, last-minute suggestions for Woodcock.

One writer said Chandler should grab his hunting rifle, head for the woods, shoot a "big buck" and send a picture of him and his trophy to all the papers.

Another said he should vow to make English Maine's "official language." (Et pourquoi pas?)

Still another pleaded for Woodcock to embrace TABOR as his "running mate."

OK, we'll stop now -- except for one last thing. In between handshakes Tuesday, Peter Mills said yes, he's already thinking about running again in 2010.

We'll be waiting.