October 28, 2021

Anyone looking for Maine’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign can find what little there is of it bright and early Monday morning at 807 Minot Ave. in Auburn.

There, at the J.L. Hayes Hardware Co., perhaps clerking behind the counter or maybe stocking shelves, will be Pat LaMarche, the independent/Green affiliated candidate for governor. It’s Day 1 of what she’s calling 20/20 — working at 20 small businesses on 20 consecutive days.

She’ll sling hash in Portland and pick potatoes in Aroostook County. At points in between, from the western mountains to the banks of the St. Croix, she’ll bag groceries, clean fish, sew clothes, answer phones, bake cakes, scramble eggs, maybe even chop some wood. She’ll hear what’s bugging the owners of Maine’s small businesses and the folks who work for them. She’ll find how the state helps and how it hurts.

Is it hokey? You bet. But political campaigns, by their very nature, are hokum. At least this dog-and-pony show has some initiative, energy and commitment behind it. LaMarche is a political novice, but the four other candidates could learn much from her.

Such as that opinion polls taken two months before election day do not give the front-runner license to hide or the also-rans permission to bail out. Or that highly structured events, like debates, or highly pointless ones, like shaking hands while sprinting through country fairs, are no substitute for real conversations with real people. And at a time when Maine’s time-honored tradition of door-to-door campaigning is giving way to the big-money approach, LaMarche’s exercise in punching the time clock is a reminder of the value of good old-fashioned, no-cost hustle.

LaMarche may or may not be the best candidate for governor, but at least she’s giving the owners, employees and patrons of 20 Maine businesses the face-to-face opportunity to find out. She may or may not have a chance, but at least she’s breaking a sweat to get one.

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