Nov 11, 2010

Maine: The Two-Party System is On the Way Out

From Gordon Weil at Maine's Morning Sentinel:
Since 1974, when Maine began to see credible independent candidates for governor, there have been 10 gubernatorial elections in Maine. Independents ran in nine of them.

Only two were won by candidates who captured a majority of the vote. In other words, eight of the last 10 Maine governors were elected by less than half of the voters.

The two exceptions were Democrat Joseph Brennan, who faced only a Republican when he ran for re-election in 1982, and independent Angus King, who won re-election over both parties’ candidates in 1998. Both won handily.

Maine has come to expect independents running for governor. Not only was King elected twice and Jim Longley elected once, but independents have run strongly in three other elections. That means that in six of the 10 races, independents were a key factor. . . .

Maine independent candidates may be here to stay. Longley and King showed that an independent candidate provides a choice who can win. Public financing of elections, fully in effect in only Maine and Arizona, also promotes independent candidacies.

The fact that in five of the last 10 elections, independents have either won or strongly influenced the outcome could send a message to the two major parties. If the multicandidate party primaries produce the most liberal Democrat or the most conservative Republican, the results open the way for an independent.

That’s the opportunity independent Eliot Cutler thought he saw this year.

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