Politics and divorce

I had forgotten about this story, but I found it deep in my clips file. I remember being assigned this story and not really wanting to do it. I didn’t like the idea of calling up these politicians and asking them to talk about their divorces. Sure enough, none of them wanted to talk. I do remember that this story got pretty good play around the country — this clip came from the Tampa Tribune. 

Divorce no bar in Maine politics

AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) — Top-level politics is no family matter in Maine, where the state’s two U.S. senators recently filed for divorce and the last two governors are among the ranks of the formerly married.

At a time when the public has focused on Gary Hart’s marital situation, the old adage that one must be stably married to succeed in politics has been thrown out the window in the Pine Tree State.

Gov. John McKernan has been divorced since 1978.  Democratic Rep. Joseph Brennan, who swapped jobs in January with former GOP congressman McKernan, was divorced in 1976. And when GOP Sen. William S. Cohen and Democratic Sen. George Mitchell announced within the past six months they were seeking divorces after marriages of 25 and 28 years, respectively, it raised more eyebrows in Washington than in Bangor or Portland.

Rep. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the state’s other member of Congress, has been a widow since 1973. She and McKernan are good friends and say they have dated.

“The people in Maine think nothing of it,” said James Russell Wiggins, former editor of the Washington Post, who moved to coastal Maine in 1969 to publish the weekly Ellsworth American newspaper. “I don’t think anybody ever raised divorce as an issue with Brennan’s election or McKernan’s, and you don’t hear about it with Cohen or Mitchell, either.”

Some political analysts say the state may have so many divorced politicians because Maine voters stress Yankee independence over conventional morals.

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Political writing: Shadowing the candidates II

It was standard practice to cover top-of-the-ticket political campaigns in part by spending some time on the campaign trail with the candidate. In 1976 in Maine, the U.S. Senate race was between incumbent Senator Edmund S. Muskie and Republican challenger Robert A.G. Monks. I spent a day with each of the candidates and turned out these stories. Looking back, I’m not sure how much such stories added to the quality of the campaigns. But it was Standard Operating Procedure, so that’s what we did.

 EDITOR’S NOTE: Robert A.G. Monks thinks he can beat Sen, Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, this November because of voters’ disenchantment with the Washington establishment. UPI recently spent a day with both Monks and Muskie. Monks campaign style is examined in this, the second part of two parts.

Monks campaigns shaking hands in many places


FREEPORT, Maine (UPI) – Robert A.G. Monks started his day as he has started many others during his campaign against Sen. Edmund S. Muskie; he shook hands with people at their place of employment.

This time it was at L.L. Bean’s in Freeport. The handshaking took up most of the morning, and he stopped off at a lunch program for the elderly and at the local police and fire stations before he took a rare lunch break to talk about his campaign.

Monks is getting around in the same wine-red International Scout he used during the primary, and he’s still usually accompanied by John Miller, who was a graduate student at the University of Maine at Orono before getting involved in Monks’ campaign last April.

The Scout looks the same except for an antenna sprouting from the roof.

“It’s a telephone,” Miller said. “We just put it in. It’s the only way we can keep in touch with the office.”

Monks’ campaign style has some definite patterns. He likes mill gates, country stores, programs for the elderly and fire stations. He claims to have campaigned at more than 70 mill gates and more than 40 programs for the elderly, and he usually stops to talk to the firemen whenever he can.

There was only one fireman on duty at the Freeport Fire Station when Monks arrived, a man perhaps a little taller than Monks, who is six-foot-six-inches.

“You,” Monks told the man, “may be the first person I’ve met during the campaign I can look in the eye.”

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Political writing: Shadowing the candidates l

Part of our campaign coverage, at least in top-of-the-ticket campaigns, was to spend a day with each candidate and then report on campaign styles. Looking back, I’m not sure this contributed much of value to the election process – there was no discussion of issues, for example. It was really a look at style rather than substance. Still, it’s what we did, and I remember these days spent with the candidates as fun and a good excuse to get a day away from the office grind. This story was one that I wrote about Ed Muskie; the next one looks at his Republican challenger, Robert A.G. Monks. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The elections are less than two months away. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie and his Republican opponent, Robert Monks, are campaigning hard. UPI spent a day with each of the candidates, and their campaign styles are examined in this, the first of a two-part series.


BANGOR, Maine (UPI) — Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, and his Republican opponent, Robert A.G. Monks, have little in common except their neckties.

Like most Maine politicians, Muskie and Monks share an affection for the Maine necktie, something which has become essential to a political campaign.

Sen. William D. Hathaway, D-Maine, is generally credited with starting the necktie binge. He owns no fewer than 12 lobster ties, including a specially-made bow tie.

Hathaway wore a pine-tree-and-potato to the Democratic National Convention in tribute to Jimmy Carter. He said the potatoes looked a great deal like peanuts.

Muskie began a day of campaigning in the Bangor area last week with a news conference at a local television studio. He wore a blue tie speckled with little white lobsters. Monks campaigned early this week in Freeport, first touring the L.L. Bean Co. facilities. Monks’ tie was also blue, and it sported little miniature outlines of the state Maine.

Muskie is 62 and the son of a tailor. He has been in public life ling enough to develop what supporters call dignity and what his detractors see as stuffiness.

Monks is 20 years younger, and lived in Massachusetts until a few years ago. He is wealthy, wealthy enough to list his occupation as “fiduciary.”

Muskie approaches people confidently, and speaks off the cuff. Monks often says the same thing: “I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Bob Monks. I’m running for the United States Senate, and I wanted to pay my respects.”

Muskie’s recent morning began with a news conference at a Bangor television station. Then he went to the local GTE Sylvania plant and shook hands with the workers. He spent more time there than he thought he would.

“There’s people working there from as far away as Millinocket,” Muskie said as he walked form the plant to the car. “I don’t think I met two people from the same town, and that’s why I stayed there so long. They all go back home at night and talk to their friends.”

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Political writing: Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy comes to Maine

I haven’t posted any examples of political writing to this point, but that’s what I spent a lot of time doing when I was a reporter for UPI in Maine. My office was on the fourth floor of the Maine State House, and most of my days were spent covering government hearings, legislative sessions and gubernatorial news conferences. In this case, a national presidential candidate came to town. I don’t really recall this visit by Eugene McCarthy in 1975, but I’m sure I considered it a break in the usual routine and a chance to get some national coverage for one of my stories.



AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) – Independent presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy says both major political parties are in trouble, and the Democrats are in more danger of extinction than the Republicans.

McCarthy, a former senator who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, said Thursday an independent stands a good chance in the presidential election next year because of the public’s growing disaffection.

“If you have a party that can nominate Richard Nixon twice, that ought to cause them problems for at least 20 years,” McCarthy said. “And if the other party can’t put up someone to beat him, that ought to say something about them.”

McCarthy said the Democrats have lost sight of their objectives and could be in danger of fading away.

“There’s no reason why a party shouldn’t disappear,” McCarthy said. “It happened to the Whig party between 1856 and 1864.”

McCarthy said the Republic Party is sort of like moss on a rock; “It gets green in the spring and grey in the fall, but it doesn’t change much.” he said. “I think the Republican Party is closer to fulfilling its function.”

The former senator said there is the best chance of the past 30 to 40 years for an independent to be elected president.

McCarthy came to Maine to talk with independent Gov. James B. Longley about a suit the two men are involved in which challenges the federal campaign funding law. The suit goes before the U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 10.

McCarthy said the campaign law discriminates against independent candidates and works to perpetuate the existing parties.

McCarthy said he felt the suit would result at least in changes in the act.

“We’re very optimistic. It is our feeling that even if it is constitutional it is a very bad act, and we’re hopeful we can stop it,” he said.

The act limits contributions to $5,000 to any one candidate and to $25,p000 in any election; requires that contributors’ names be made public; imposes spending limits on candidates; and provides federal funding to the party candidates.

Longley, who attended the news conference with McCarthy at the Blaine House, said the federal act serves to discourage people from running for office.

“I think we need to do more to encourage people to run for office,” he said.

McCarthy said the act has made it difficult for him to run for president.

“It’s made it difficult to finance our campaign,” he said. “It gives a clear advantage to the Democrats and Republicans by giving them funds to start with.