‘Mank’ my day, Gordon Mank, and drop out

It’s time for Gordon Mank Jr. to end his bid for election to the Maine House of Representatives.

In the world of the 24-hour news cycle, the old art of asking a question and digging out an answer over time is too often lost.

But in this case, good reporting by a number of people uncovered the fact that Mank, a candidate in House District 46 in Rockland, doesn’t actually live in the district, making him ineligible to be on the ballot or to serve.

The work was begun by Dirigo Blue blogger Gerald Weinand, who started asking questions about Mank’s residence back in August. Weinand stayed on the story, adding new details and evidence with reporting partner Christine Parrish, who works for the Free Press, with more solid work being turned in by the Bangor Daily News’ Stephen Betts.

And then, early this week, the Betts put the icing on top of the cake. In an interview with Mank, the illegitimate House candidate admitted that he actually lives in Rockport and that he hasn’t lived in Rockland since 1999.

Caught in a lie, Mank has changed his story, offering different excuses and explanations, while reporters have been dogged in trying to uncover the truth.

Mank finally told the BDN that he considers himself a resident of Rockland, despite not living there. He also told the reporter that he has no intention of removing his name from the ballot or answering any more questions about where he lives.

Talk about audacity.

It’s an insult to voters, and it’s an insult to the rule of law.

The Maine Constitution makes it clear that what Mank is doing is against the law.

“No person may be a candidate for election as a member of the House of Representatives unless, at the time of the nomination for placement on a primary, general or special election ballot, that person is a resident in the district which the candidate seeks to represent.”

By his own admission and considerable outside evidence, Mank should not be on the ballot.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much legal recourse right now. The Office of the Secretary of State says that it doesn’t have the power to remove Mank from the ballot.

A challenge needed to be brought to his nomination long before Weinand began to dig into Mank’s housing arrangements.

Unless Mank relents – which is the right thing to do – it will be up to voters to reject him.

Someone who so blatantly ignores the law should have no part in writing it or in leading our state.

This isn’t about party affiliation or about a disagreement on public policy. For all that I know, Mank and I may agree on a number of important issues.

Instead, this is about right and wrong. About playing by the rules. And about following the law. His actions should doom his electoral chances.

Charlie Webster, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party, has been running around the state trying to convince anyone who will listen that election fraud is rampant. It’s not. He’s done everything in his power to make it harder for eligible Maine voters to participate.

But on this score, I haven’t heard a peep.

The same is true with Secretary of State Charlie Summers, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Summers may not have the official authority to remove Mank from the ballot, but as the state’s chief election officer, he has the moral authority to ask him to step aside.

All of this, of course, is politically tricky.

On the off chance that Mank defeats Elizabeth Dickerson, D-Rockland, in the race to replace term-limited Democrat Ed Mazurek, things will only get worse.

Under the Maine Constitution, each House of the Legislature is the judge of the elections and qualifications of its own members.

Were Mank to win in November, his election would be thrown to the Legislature to decide. If that were to happen, I would hope that members of both parties could look at the evidence that has been uncovered and arrive at a bipartisan decision to toss Mank out on his hindquarters.

But if the House remains closely divided – or goodness forbid, control of the body was at stake – I wouldn’t rely on either party’s better angles to guide the day.

The honorable thing would be for Mank to drop out of the race. But if he doesn’t, I hope that voters hand him his hat and his walking papers.

As for the fine work of Weinand, Parrish and Betts, keep asking those tough questions.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at dfarmer14@hotmail.com.