Augusta Mayor David Rollins has changed his mind. After indicating to me that he would announce for state Senate this month, he and his family have reassessed that decision.
Rollins has decided not to run for Senate District 15 for some of the following reasons that he gave me in a telephone interview this week:
• The mayor had heart bypass surgery recently, and despite a fabulous recovery which he says has made him feel the best in his lifetime, he is concerned that the grueling schedule of serving in the Senate would greatly interfere with his need for a meticulous diet and regularly scheduled exercise. Rollins’ family is concerned about the added physical stress of serving in the Senate.
• Rollins is self-employed, and after talking with other senators past and present, he is concerned that he would be unable to successfully continue to operate the business that puts bread on his family table, Rollins Appraisal Service. Augusta Councilor Corey Wilson is an example to Rollins of someone who left the Legislature because of the lack of time available to make a living.
• The mayor dislikes politics of confrontation and conflict, instead opting for compromise and consensus in reaching decisions that bring about solutions to problems. Rollins is passionate about the city of Augusta and his desire to achieve the ambitious agenda that he has embarked upon. Rollins feels that he can accomplish much more as a leader at the local level than he could in the raucous world of Republicans vs. Democrats at the State House.
• The mayor enjoys his family life, the good will and respect of his fellow citizens, and looks forward to helping on the arrangements for the marriage of well-known daughter Katie in the fall. Most of all he wants nothing to upset all he has worked for to help secure success and safety for his family.
My take: In the final analysis Mayor Rollins probably decided that he was not partisan enough to contend with the nasty world of politics at the state and federal level. He sees that innuendo and the politics of personal destruction now rule the day in that environment. At the local level, as mayor of Augusta, Rollins runs in nonpartisan elections in which he does not have to pledge allegiance to any political party and is less likely to be the victim of personal attack. How many other public servants will make similar decisions in this period of political Machiavellianism?
So what’s next?
Rollins’ decision not to run removes a major obstacle to Republican Rep. Matt Pouliot’s chances to follow term-limited Republican Sen. Roger Katz to the Senate in District 15, which comprises Augusta, China, Oakland, Sidney and Vassalboro. With longtime personal friend Rollins not in the race, Katz has no impediment to enthusiastically endorsing fellow Republican Pouliot, who now becomes the favorite.
With Rollins gone from the Senate field, the Democrats are, temporarily at least, left with environmentalist John Glowa Sr. as the only announced candidate for the nomination. Glowa is best known as the “wolf man” for his work as president of the Maine Wolf Coalition. He lost a bid for District 79 state representative in the 2016 election against independent Tim Theriault.
It is highly doubtful that the Democrats can or will settle for Glowa as their Senate nominee. Therefore the speculation has begun on who else might run.
Others being talked about include “Wick” Johnson, who sold his business, Kennebec Technologies, to its employees a couple of years ago, but remains involved. He is being wooed by the Democrats as their candidate, and is about to decide. Johnson has wanted to become a political candidate for some time. Johnson has earned a shot with the Democrats because of his strong financial support, fierce party loyalty, and highly visible pubic opposition to Republican Sen. Susan Collins during Collins’ last re-election campaign. Democratic Party sources have indicated to me they plan to finance the most expensive state Senate campaign in Maine history. Expect lots of money from away, from the likes of Nancy Pelosi and friends.
Johnson once proudly told me at a meeting that he is a “progressive liberal.” I know what his political philosophy is. His candidacy would present a stark contrast in a campaign against Pouliot’s independent moderate conservatism.
Johnson has no political or public service experience. Pouliot is in his third legislative term.
I don’t think that Kennebec Senate District 15 — where I live — is for sale. It has not suddenly turned politically dark blue. A progressive liberal candidate is unlikely to be elected from this district to a critical, perhaps tie-breaking, Maine Senate seat.
Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.