Is position lure enough for Curtis?

Ken Curtis was governor of Maine when I first arrived there in 1973 to cover, among other things, government and politics for United Press International. By 1977, he was out of office and had founded a new law firm in Portland with several partners, but it seemed obvious to those of us who had covered his administration that he would like another bite of the apple if the right job came along. In 1977 Jimmy Carter had been elected president, and it seemed likely that Carter, a good friend of Curtis, would offer him a job. He did, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. At the point this story was written, in January 1977, Curtis was being a bit coy, but he soon accepted the job. FULL DISCLOSURE DEPARTMENT: I was interested in becoming press secretary to the DNC under Curtis, and there were a couple of discussions about it, but it didn’t happen. A few months later, I found myself in Washington anyway, as press secretary to Sen. William D. Hathaway, another Democrat.


PORTLAND, Maine (UPI) – Kenneth Curtis has been pretty sure that the Carter administration would offer him some kind of job. The only question was whether the position would be attractive enough for him to leave Maine.

President-elect Jimmy Carter, in telegrams to all members of the Democratic National Committee, today recommended Curtis as chairman of the committee. Carter’s endorsement makes the choice almost inevitable.

In recommending Curtis, Carter said, “I know he shares my strong belief that the Democratic Party must belong to the people and not just the political figures.”

“Maine is beautiful, a great place to live,” Curtis said recently in an interview. “I don’t know whether I’ll want to leave it.”

ken curtisCurtis graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy and served in the Korean War and on several merchant ships before earning his law degree in 1959. He later served as Maine’s secretary of state before becoming governor in 1967.

His re-election bid four years later succeeded, but only barely because he had been the first governor in Maine’s history to institute an income tax.

Curtis met Jimmy Carter when both men were still governors. Carter and his wife Rosalynn were guests of Curtis and his wife Polly several times, and it was Curtis who urged the state Democratic Party to invite Carter to address the party’s 1974 convention.

Carter came to Bangor that year for the convention, and delivered what was later to be known as his “love speech,” which Carter gave many times during his campaign for president.

When Curtis left office at the end of 1974, he said repeatedly that he was looking forward to private life and practicing law. He, his wife Polly and their daughter Angel moved back to their home in Cape Elizabeth. Another daughter, Susan, died while Curtis was governor.

Curtis admitted he still was enthralled by politics, but couldn’t see an office he wanted to run for.

“I’d like to run for the Senate, I suppose,” Curtis said. “But Sen. (Edmund) Muskie and Sen. (William) Hathaway are fellow Democrats and friends, and I wouldn’t run against them.”