Baldacci, Mills, Cain could lead Democrats’ slate for CD 2

Update – this post was updated at 4:16 p.m. on 5/9/13 with additional comments by former Gov. John Baldacci saying he’s not interested in running for Michaud’s seat.

Looming over the speculation of who might jump into the 2nd Congressional District race if U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud decides to run for governor is whether or not former Gov. John Baldacci will join the fray. Baldacci held the seat for four terms from 1995 to 2003 and despite his relatively high disapproval ratings in the state would be the natural leader of the field if he decides to run.

But Baldacci indicated he’s not interested.

“My interests right now are in the state of Maine,” he said Thursday afternoon. “That’s where I am right now in my career.”

His brother, Joe Baldacci, might take up the family’s political mantle, though. He told the Bangor Daily News two months ago he was “definitely interested” in a 2nd District bid.

“Maine needs a person willing to fight for the interests of Maine — to promote jobs and economic development, as well as supporting our public schools and protecting our state’s environment,” he said.

John Baldacci has previously said he would considering running against Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, and Eliot Cutler, an independent, in the gubernatorial race if a credible Democrat doesn’t jump in.

Here’s a rundown of other potential Democratic candidates for Michaud’s seat if he jumps into the Blaine House race.

John Baldacci – Born in Bangor, Baldacci has strong 2nd District ties and voters have seen his name on the ballot – and elected him to office – from 1995 to 2011. He fits the profile of the stereotypical Maine politician, which is to say he may lack flash but he knows the right people and he is skilled at connecting with people one-on-one. Though he denies interest, one top Republican said Baldacci “is a very capable politician.” But he also noted because Baldacci is so well-known, essentially “no amount of campaigning or spending would move the needle for him.” In other words, his ability to win the seat would depend on his Republican opponent more than anything else.

Joe Baldacci - The Bangor city councilor is full of ambition, waiting to burst onto the state’s political scene. His family name will certainly give him an edge when it comes to raising his profile initially, and probably when it comes to fundraising as well. But the Bangor lawyer has a scant record and will have a learning curve when it comes to pressing flesh as a politician.

Janet Mills – Mills has a long public service resume, currently serving as Maine’s attorney general. She’s also been a state lawmaker from Farmington and served as a state district attorney. Mills is known for her straightforward and plain spoken style, but also as sharp lawmaker intent on crafting effective public policy. Despite being active in the Maine Democratic Party, Mills is on the conservative side of the party’s spectrum. Critics say she’s not a great campaigner, but one top Democratic strategist said she’s got potential as a strong fundraiser and could be a “wildcard” in the 2nd District which in some ways is “tailor-made” for her style.

Emily Cain – Cain, who came from out of state to attend the University of Maine, has long been a bright prospect for Democrats since she was first elected to the Maine Legislature in 2004. Bubbly in demeanor, Cain proved her ability to handle complicated policy when she co-chaired the Appropriations Committee and her ability to lead when she acted as House Minority Leader in 2010. While one Democrat cited concerns about her ability to handle a rough-and-tumble campaign – “Can she really take it when the shit starts coming down hill at her?” he asked – Republicans say she’s the candidate they fear most. “She has sought to move beyond her very partisan early days in the legislature; Emily works well with both Republicans and Democrats and is well-liked,” one Republican said.

Troy Jackson – Jackson has strong backing in northern Maine, where he has served as a state lawmaker. His simple way of speaking belies a savvy politician who knows how to key in on issues that resonate with constituents and he provides a comfortable antidote to the stereotype of a slick politician out for himself. He is limited by being relatively unknown in the more populous coastal part of the district and could struggle to fundraise, however.

Jeff McCabe – The Skowhegan lawmaker is in his third House term but suffers the same drawbacks as Jackson – despite being well-liked, he’s unknown. One political strategist says “he lacks the experience and network to launch a major campaign.” McCabe is very interested in the race, even emailing to make sure his name was on the list of potentials. But It’s hard to think either Jackson or McCabe would gain much traction in the face of better known candidates, despite the fact that both of them are clearly cut from the same cloth as Michaud.

Matt Dunlap – Dunlap has been eager to reach higher office since his time serving as a state lawmaker. But following stints as Secretary of State, an office he currently holds, and leading the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Orono native has yet to put in a good showing. He even lost to weak Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill during the recent U.S. Senate primary. And while his resume means voters are familiar with his name, one Republican says he would be their ideal candidate to run against, calling him “unexciting, uninteresting and increasingly unelectable.”

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.