Maine’s gubernatorial race could be inspiring and insightful. The three declared candidates could put forth their ideas for our state honestly, while recognizing the capabilities and worthiness of their opponents. We could demonstrate to the nation how this can be done — indeed, must be done.

Instead, this campaign likely will be vitriolic and ugly. Most of what we know about the candidates we’ll learn in foolish 30-second television commercials. By Nov. 4, 2014, we probably won’t like any of them. We certainly won’t be inspired. We’re more likely to be fearful.

In church recently, I talked about the beautiful steeple high above our heads, held there by the support structure of the church building — the timbers, beams and cement. Without that structure, the steeple would be flat on the ground, just an odd-looking piece of a building.

I told the congregation that the church, composed of each of us, from worship to missions, depends on each one of us. We are the structure that lifts the church high. If any one of us steps aside, the church sags, diminished in every way.

The same analogy applies to our beautiful state of Maine. The state is held high by its fields and forests, lakes and rivers, and the sea — and most especially by its people. Depending on our actions, we hold up our state or we drop it to the ground.

When one timber fights with another, our structure is weakened. We all must stand together or watch our state fall all around us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our three gubernatorial candidates understood this? I would love to hear one of them say to an opponent, “Hey, that’s a great idea!”

I know, this won’t happen. As the three candidates fight it out for the next 12 months, our state will sag. And it will be very hard to lift up Maine again once the election is over.

We already know that our structure is old, indeed, oldest in the nation. We need some new timbers. We won’t get them by bickering amongst ourselves. Those new timbers are looking for inspiration in addition to jobs and opportunities, and they will go where they find them. This gubernatorial election could be their inspiration. We could lead the nation to a much better political place.

I know a bit about all three candidates. Their approach to governing, personal styles and experience may be different, but each has an interesting and often-compelling plan for our state.

I had a very enjoyable supper one night a couple weeks ago with U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. Mike was one of the most effective legislators I ever worked with in Augusta. He works hard, is relatively nonpartisan in his approach, and has mastered the state budget. We had a very frank discussion about my concerns. I liked what I heard.

Mike Cuzzi, a former campaign aide to President Barack Obama who now works for VOX Global, a national communications and public affairs firm, wrote in a Maine Sunday Telegram Nov. 17 op-ed that “Mike Michaud (must) demonstrate he’s no throw-back to the bygone Democratic establishment nor beholden to its long-worn partisan interests.” Strong words from a well-known Democrat. Ironically, very similar to the advice I gave Mike two weeks ago.

I have been supporting Eliot Cutler — and giving him advice — since before the last election. His worldly experience and his work on issues I care about — especially the environment — are outstanding. He’d bring a lot of outside interest and positive energy to the state. And I’ve come to believe strongly that independence of thought and approach can be very effective in governing. Angus King taught me this — and continues to demonstrate it as a U.S. senator.

I like some of the changes that Gov. Paul LePage has initiated. A majority of Mainers probably agree about this.

Unfortunately, the governor’s divisive ways and words have convinced a large majority of Maine voters that he must be replaced.

Indeed, in a two-way battle, it appears that LePage would have no chance of re-election. But it looks as if we’ll be electing another governor who starts out with less than half the vote and support of his constituents. With a positive, enlightening and inspiring campaign from all three candidates, this wouldn’t matter.

So let me remind those three candidates of this fact: When you get into a pissing contest with a skunk, you end up smelling just as bad as the skunk. Please, don’t be the skunk in this campaign. And if you detect a skunk in the race, run the other way!

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.