Maine Sen. Tom Saviello to leave Republican Party if tea party challenger enters race

SAVIELLOLOWRES_9655383-140x150I have confirmed that Republican Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton intends to leave the Republican Party if tea party Republicans go forward with their plan to have John Frary of Farmington challenge him in a primary. (The news of Frary potentially running for the Senate was reported in the Bangor Daily News and first broken by As Maine Goes).

Saviello would declare himself an independent prior to the March 1 deadline. The information comes from a source who declined to be named to avoid negative consequences.

The back story on this move is that Republicans are angry with Saviello for being a moderate in their increasingly conservative party. In particular, they are annoyed that he has voted to expand health care and to override a number of LePage vetoes. To that end, apparently long-time tea party and right wing Republican activist Mary Adams has been working hard to get someone to run against him.

In fact, Adams sent a private email to her “coalition” last Saturday morning (it was forwarded to me). In it, she informed her team, “John Frary says that I may share with you the news that he is a candidate for District 18 senate seat, the district now represented by Tom Saviello.” And then in perhaps some wishful thinking, she says, “This means that Mr. Saviello will face a Republican primary contest, unless he drops out and goes back to being a Democrat or unenrolled, two things he was before he registered as a Republican.” She includes a way to contact John in her email and informs everyone of the towns in the district.

For those who don’t know, Mary Adams is a very close confidant of the governor’s. She actually received an unscripted shout-out in his State of the State speech last week when he was speaking about a small business owner named Nicole Snow. “This is Mary Adams, very, very young,” he said.

In terms of the implications of Republicans pushing Saviello out of the party, my estimation is that this move will virtually guarantee that Republicans lose the seat.

Most likely is that Saviello will win as an independent in a three-way or head-to-head against Frary if Democrats don’t run a candidate. And since the Republicans pushed him out, it is highly unlikely that he will caucus with them.

Second most likely is that Democrats will steal the seat in a three-way. Although party registration leans Republican, this district was won by President Barack Obama in 2012 with 55 percent and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud with 58 percent. (Michaud has never lost this district).

The least likely scenario is Frary winning, as he lost to Michaud in this area, 60-40 percent, only five years ago.

Plus, in the latest redistricting, Democrats were successful in reducing the Republican advantage by more than 800 voters.

By any account, pushing Saviello out of the Republican Party and jeopardizing what little chance the party already had to win the majority is not a good strategy. But it is clearly reflective of an increasingly intolerant Republican Party.

Posted by Ethan Strimling