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Unlike my radio talk show on WGAN where we talk a lot about politics and listeners call with all kinds of insightful comments, we try not to get too political here at Storyteller Central, where we attempt to be just as profound and insightful as talk radio - just not as political.
But lately we’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who want to know things that might be out there on the borderline between the world of politics and the realm of storytelling.
"What are you talking about John? Just where is that borderline?" I hear some of you mumble to yourself as you read this.
I will ignore such questions at this time and will instead press on with what I intended to write about in the fist place.
Several readers - who admitted upfront to being new arrivals from away - wanted to know if any famous Maine politicians ever ran for president.
In a related matter, more than one reader has written to ask how Maine’s Governor’s Mansion - the Blaine House - got its name.
I say ‘somewhat related’ because the Blaine House was once owned and occupied by one of Maine's most successful politicians – James G. Blaine – who ran unsuccessfully for president more times than almost anyone else in the 19th century.
Who was James G. Blaine? To his political enemies he was known as affectionately as: the continental liar from the State of Maine. To his friends, he was known affectionately as, “Slick Jim.”
Although he hated to admit it, Blaine was not a native but ‘from away.’ He was born in 1830 in the sleepy little town of West Brownsville, Pennsylvania. If you knew anything about West Brownsville you’d know why Blaine decided to pack-up and leave the town as soon as he could arrange it.
Blaine also taught in a military institute in a town even sleepier than West Brownsville - Blue Lick Springs.
Blue Lick Springs? Where’s that? I again hear you asking. It’s located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in KY.
Fact is Blaine didn’t even make it up here to Maine until 1854 when he was hired as editor of the Kennebec Journal in Augusta.
Later, in what some would consider a step up and others would consider a step down, he moved to Portland to become editor of the Portland Advertiser.
In 1859 Blaine got himself elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where he served three years, the last year as Speaker.
After three years in the Maine Legislature Blaine moved on to Congress as a representative from Maine. He did so well as Speaker of the Maine House that his colleagues in Congress soon elected him Speaker there as well.
In 1876 he resigned from Congress and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for President. He ran for the same nomination four years later and lost once again.
The third time being the charm – at least for Blaine's nomination - he became the Republican candidate for president in 1884. How'd he do? Not too well. He managed to lose the election to Grover Cleveland. But he came SO close, which means he would have gotten some points if he had been playing horse shoes.
How close?
Well, he lost New York state, and thereby the election, by 1,000 votes. Many people, including Blaine, thought he lost the Empire State because of bigoted remarks made in New York on the eve of the election (supposedly on Blaine’s behalf) by the Rev. Samuel D. Burchard, a tea-totaling, anti-Catholic preacher. In an emotional speech before a New York crowd, the reckless Reverend referred to the opposing party – the Democrats - as the party of "…Rum, Romanism and Rebellion!"
Such a speech may not ruffle many feathers today, but back in the 1880s it got lots of people all riled up.
Despite the fact that this occurred well before talk radio, texting, the Reverend’s words spread like wildfire throughout New York’s immigrant population, offending many Irish Catholics in the process. They knew that Rev. Burchard's reference to "rum" was code for the drunken Irish; "Romanism" was an obvious reference to Roman Catholics and rebellion was meant to round out the alliteration and also refer to Democrats as Confederate rowdies.
In the remaining hours of the campaign Blaine reminded New York voters that his own mother was a Catholic but it was not enough.
If you’re a political junkie into stats, I’ll just add that by losing the election of 1884 Blaine became the only non-incumbent Republican between 1856-1912 to lose a race for the presidency. And all because some bigot referred to Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism and rebellion."
Blaine died in Washington in 1893 and his body was later brought back to Augusta where he was buried in Blaine Memorial Park.
His mansion - the Blaine House - is now the official residence of Maine's Chief Executive.
I just thought you'd like to know that.

JJohn McDonald is a humorist and storyteller
who performs regularly throughout New England.
Contact John at or 899-1868.
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