I’ve been on the phone for the last six hours. My phone is dead, and so I write. The news is still shocking, and that shock hasn’t worn off. I’m not alone, though – I received a call this evening from a staffer who was in the room when Governor LePage learned of Snowe’s decision. “Oh… shit” the governor said, flabbergasted, before shaking it off and returning to his work. [pardon my French] Dozens of people from both parties have been waiting to run for Olympia Snowe‘s seat for years, and operatives will be on the phone much later than I this evening, talking about who will be doing what in the next 48 hours. And that’s the important part: decisions are going to need to be made by everyone in the next couple of days at the latest. Expect some decisions made by tomorrow. Why? The deadline to get on the primary ballot for Republican and Democratic candidates is March 15. Any interested candidate will need to get 2,000 certified signatures by that date (which means well above 2,000 total if you figure in the names that will be thrown out), or they won’t be on the ballot.
The logistical requirements of actually meeting that hurdle are very high. This is not something that can be done by a political novice in two weeks – indeed it is a difficult task for established figures. In the 2010 gubernatorial contest, both Democrats and Republicans were having a difficult time getting enough signatures, and most campaigns only managed to finish collecting them a few days before they were due. That was with a year (sometimes more) lead time. People now have two weeks.
Unless something changes – I have heard mention that the Maine legislature has the capability to push that date back, but my sources say there have been no conversations about that yet – that means that the only people that can pull it off are folks with already established political machines, or people with the money to instantly purchase the manpower to get it done.