2015-02-20 / Community

Blogger berates South Portland political leaders

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — There’s burning a bridge, and then there’s blowing it to smithereens.

If that’s what Tim Smith, a one-time candidate for a Democratic Party nomination to the state Legislature, had in mind with a Jan. 28 blog post, it would appear he succeeded admirably.

Smith, 26, who lives on Fillmore Avenue in South Portland, was briefly a Democratic candidate for House District 33 this past spring. However, soon after announcing his candidacy at the party’s city caucus in March 2014, he mysteriously dropped out of the race.

Since then, Smith has started a blog titled, “Notes from Above Ground: The Internal Life of an Unabashed Extrovert.”

The blog is largely an “experiment in free writing,” said Smith in a Feb. 3 interview. The postings, while made under the fictional name “Annibale Sforza,” are largely biographical. The use of a pseudonym, he said, it less about trying to keep his identity secret than with “frustrating Google.”

“It’s like a diary on the Internet that anyone can read,” Smith explained. “It’s from my perspective, obviously, and the thoughts are obviously reactions I’ve had to real characters. But I write anonymously because I don’t consider myself to be a very loud voice. I was not thinking anyone would find it. I did not think anyone actually read it.”

But find it they did, and it spoke quite loudly, in part because, in describing his experience at the March caucus and why he dropped out of both the legislative race and the Democratic Party, Smith excoriated a host of leading public figures.

Smith said he made his post “at about midday” Jan. 28. Within hours, it was being shared on social media.

“Written by a former Dem legislative candidate? Pretty stunning look at Maine Dem politics if so,” wrote Jason Savage on Twitter.

“Strange look into the dark belly of Democratic politics, including the demand for absolute obedience and special interest influence,” he added, when sharing Smith’s post on Facebook.

Savage is the executive director of the Maine Republican Party, which may explain his purpose in popularizing Smith’s post.

By the next morning, Smith claims, someone from the South Portland Democratic Party City Committee was in his voice mail and on text messaging service (three times in the latter case) demanding the post be removed.

“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, this is pretty scary,’ ” Smith said, adding that the person on the voice mail — he won’t say who, other than that it was a local committee leader — “exploded” on him.

“It was a little nerve-wracking for a moment,” he said, explaining that he did indeed take down the post, before reconsidering and putting it back online again some 10 minutes later, appended with a note explaining why he did so.

A large chunk of the post explains Smith’s political positions on various topics, including why he thought he’d make a good candidate for public office. Before and after that section, however, Smith explains why he became disillusioned with the Democrats, after he was allegedly stifled from speaking out against the teacher’s union, and deprived of support when he failed to rally to the Democrat’s gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud.

“Browbeating intra-party voices rang in the air ad nauseum,” Smith wrote. “The campaign aspect of the party was obsessed with cramming me into a blue cardboard box and retuning my voice into basically a roll-call note on the Maine Democratic scale, not the melody of the citizenry.”

Smith said his campaign won the active support of State Rep. Terry Morrison, whom he refers to in the blog post as “Rep. Moe Berry.” That support, indeed all support from local Democrats, was pulled, Smith said, after he came out for Independent candidate Eliot Cutler.

However, Matt Beck, chairman of the South Portland Democratic Committee at the time, denies this was the case.

“The first time I was aware of that was when I read his blog a week or so ago,” he said during a recent interview. “Until then I had no idea he was supporting Cutler, but that would not have changed my dealings with him anyway.”

As chairman, Beck said, it was his duty to stay neutral about Smith and his primary opponent Rosemarie De Angelis.

Beck denies being the person who demanded deletion of the blog post. He also said the Democratic Party, on the city level at least, makes no demands that its candidates confirm to a particular set of pubic talking points.

“I’ve never considered that to be the case,” he said.

Smith saw it differently. Referring to Beck as “Glenn Beck,” he described the then-committee chairman as “a union boss with a voice that sounded like a castrated passive aggressive Kermit the Frog.

“Glenn was a very serious person and deeply skeptical of anyone who wasn’t in lockstep with the party platform and the mainstream left,” Smith wrote.

Describing Beck’s caucus speech homily to outgoing State Rep. Bryan Kaerath — a person Smith claimed, “all party people in the South Portland Dems could not stand” — Smith said of Beck, “This was the stage where I first witnessed the revolting inauthenticity and soulless greed of party leadership.”

“I kind of interpreted it as being a sort of imaginative satire,” said Beck. “I did not see that it really resembled what happened at the caucus. So, I didn’t take it really seriously. It didn’t bother me enough that I made any effort to try and get in touch.”

The current leader of the Democrats’ city committee, Dan Mooers, also denied contacting Smith about the blog. In fact, he denied knowing anything about at all it until asked for comment recently.

Smith dubbed Mooers “Bill O’Millan” on his blog post, describing him as “a porcine lawyer of mediocre skill and advanced age?” with a “face covered in leaky capillaries.”

Mooers was one of four Democrats Smith claimed “interrogated” him at the caucus in an effort to decide if leadership should support him over De Angelis.

In addition to Beck and Mooers, the others were then-mayor Jerry Jalbert and City Councilor Tom Blake.

Using Jalbert’s surname, but giving him the first name “Rusty,” Smith said Jalbert’s face “looked like a surprised fuzzy anus with teeth,” and that he “silkily gnashed his maw, believing he was a very important and influential figure.”

“It’s sort of obvious that certain comments do not deserve the respect of a reply,” said Jalbert on Tuesday, claiming he, too, was unaware of the blog until asked.

“The more general statement I’ll make is that there’s really no room in the public sector for personal attacks,” he said. “I think that’s what people on the whole are tired of. But I’m glad Tim Smith does not represent me as an elected official.”

On the blog post, Smith gives Blake the name “Patches McBrierdy” and claims he “loathed” De Angelis, an assertion Blake denied.

“McBrierdy was a reactionary, not a prudent man . . . neither a terrible guy, nor the quickest ass in the stable,” Smith wrote.

“It was certainly a very interesting read, very satirical,” said Blake. “It was actually quite funny, although sometimes wildly inaccurate. He was really brutal to some people. I don’t think he served his cause, whatever his intentions were.”

Suffering perhaps the most brutal attack on the blog most was De Angelis, whom Smith renamed “Rosemarie DeInfernum.”

Smith claimed to have been recruited to run at first because “no one in the party leadership wanted” De Angelis, a former city councilor and mayor, to run for higher office. That attitude, he said, was “because, well, she [was] nuttier than squirrel sh__ and half the town had voted her out of office as mayor and city councilor just two years ago.”

Smith then painted the following word picture of De Angelis — “A lifelong educator somewhere between 4’10” and shrill: Picture Hillary Clinton, probably a third as intelligent (still a compliment) and just as evil (fact). Yeah, that’s Rosemarie.”

“I haven’t actually stopped laughing since I read it,” said De Angelis, who also had not heard about the posting until recently.

“I guess what I would say, if I was going to say anything, is I try really hard not to personalize what other people say,” she said. “I believe people’s comments like that are more about themselves and whatever’s going on in their life.”

De Anglis, who was recruited by Kaenrath to run, ultimately lost to Republican Kevin Battle, a result Smith said he’s “quite pleased with,” although De Angelis claims he “offered to do whatever he could” to assist her campaign after her dropped out of the race.

Meanwhile, Smith went on to actively support Cutler during the gubernatorial campaign, and worked on the petition drive to bring a ranked-choice voting alternative to Maine voters at an upcoming referendum.

While he does not rule out another run for public office, and admits his post was not “politically expedient,” Smith said his critique about the Democratic Party applies to Republicans as well.

“There’s been a lot more positive response then negative to my post,” he said. “I think the people who are really resonating with this controversy are intuiting, like I am, that there is something fundamentally broken with our political system.

“My goal is to get everyone to unenroll from the parties,” he said, describing his next political effort. “By 2016, I hope Maine is 80 percent Independents, at least.”

For her part, De Angelis seems to doubt Smith will have much more of an impact with that cause than he did on the legislative race.

“He was such a flash in the pan,” she said. “It was like, he was there one day, and nobody knew who he was, and then the next day he was gone, and nobody knew who he was.”

In the meantime, Smith, who until recently worked as a real estate agent, is planning an upcoming blog revelation on that industry, which he now calls “incredibly evil,” in Southern Maine.

“If you thought this last post was controversial, you’ll definitely want to read that one,” he said.

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