Maine’s Wide-Open Primary
Olympia Snowe’s retirement leaves an open field.

Charlie Summers, Maine’s secretary of state


Scott D’Amboise, from Lisbon, Maine, has been running for the nomination since 2010. Originally, he hoped to defeat Snowe in a primary, and now he hopes to beat the “Snowe disciples” in the field.

“They’re all career politicians,” he tells NRO. “They’re all Olympia Snowe recycles, and I’m not.” Not that D’Amboise lacks political experience. He served one term as a selectman in Lisbon, and he ran for Congress in the 2nd district in 2006.

He gives clipped answers to policy questions. On Ryan’s budget, he says, “I am still studying it, but I support what I’ve read thus far.” On our efforts overseas, he offers: “I think we’ve done all we can do in Afghanistan. I think it’s time we bring our troops home.” He also advocates cutting foreign aid to Pakistan. He supports “very strong sanctions” on Iran but adds, “I don’t think we should ever have to put one American boot on Iranian soil.”

D’Amboise drew scorn from much of the state media for his demand that Snowe resign after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Education Management Corporation, which had employed her husband, John McKernan, for more than a decade. (McKernan was not listed as a defendant.) When D’Amboise claimed that McKernan had defrauded the federal government of student aid through the company, the Portland Press Herald sternly rebuked him: “This happens to be a flat-out lie with absolutely no substantiation.”

Debra Plowman, from Hampden, Maine, is a state senator for the 33rd district. She has been in the Maine legislature for 16 years, starting with her election to the state House of Representatives in 1992. In 2000, she took a sabbatical from politics, working for a few years at her family’s business, PDQ (“Pretty Darn Quick”) Door, a garage-door company. In 2004, she returned to elected office as a state senator.

Plowman emphasizes her ability to forge what she calls legislative “resolution.” For 14 out of the 16 years she has been in office, she has been in the minority. “I understand that conflict does not mean a breakdown,” she says. “Conflict is what I do. It’s what I’ve done for 16 years: conflict and then resolution. What we need more of in Washington is resolution.”

Like Bennett, she stresses her experience as a small-business owner: “I know what it takes to sign the front of a paycheck and hopefully the back of a paycheck.”

Asked about Ryan’s budget, Plowman replies: “I don’t ever say that I’m going to support something. I think I would have a few problems with it — it might be a little bit more than I would vote for.”

Like D’Amboise, she’s skeptical of our efforts in Afghanistan: “At some point you have to realize you can’t change the hearts and minds of a culture. I think it’s time for us to bring people home, but we should not say we’re going to be isolationist.” Of Iran, she says, “I really believe that sanctions don’t work, but we should continue with the diplomacy.” There are probably, she adds, “some negotiations going on that we’ll never know about.”