Every Maine voter is able to vote in one of the two political party primaries on Tuesday.

Unenrolled voters can enroll in the Democratic or Republican Party that day and help select that party’s nominees, from the Legislature to the U.S. Senate.

It’s that U.S. Senate race that should draw your interest, even if you are one of the more than 50 percent of Maine voters who are planning to vote for independent candidate Angus King in that race.

You won’t find King on your June 12 ballot. He filed his petition signatures as an independent candidate on May 22 and was certified for the November ballot in a record 15 minutes. My sister Edie Smith, director of King’s field operation, was responsible for that project.

Some of you might wish the Senate campaign could be over that quickly. It promises to get ugly as both parties try to knock our former governor down to their level.

If you are an enthusiastic King supporter, you may wonder how to vote in your political primary. Do you vote for the candidate you feel is the strongest for your party? Or do you vote for the candidate you feel would be the weakest against King in the general election?

Oh, what an ethical dilemma. And what a delicious decision. No way I’m going to suggest a course of action on that one.

The dust-up to these two primary campaigns was a version of musical chairs, with none of the participants wanting to take a seat. At one point, more than four dozen potential candidates were jockeying for position in the races for U.S. Senate and Congress.

For the record, Republicans will be offered six choices in their crowded U.S. Senate primary: Rick Bennett, Debra Plowman, Charlie Summers, William Schneider, Scott D’Amboise and Bruce Poliquin.

The first four are friends of mine, and I believe all four would serve our state well in Washington (as they have here in Maine). All four served with distinction in the Legislature. Plowman is there now, while Summers is secretary of state and Schneider is attorney general.

Summers should be in the lead, given his high name identification after running twice for Congress in the 1st District.

Poliquin, however, is the darling of the tea partiers, who may constitute as much as one-third of the Republican primary vote. He has plenty of his own money and is waging a full-scale campaign with road signs, mailings, and radio and television ads.

Poliquin has closely linked his campaign to Gov. Paul LePage in all of his advertising. I’m looking at a large card I got in the mail last week, headlined “Paul LePage and Bruce Poliquin — Two Conservatives fighting for Maine’s Future.”

Without doubt, the very controversial Poliquin would be disastrous for Republicans in both the Senate race and elsewhere on the ballot if he gets the nomination. I’m betting he does.

Democrats have four choices in their U.S. Senate primary: Matthew Dunlap, Jon Hink, Cynthia Dill and Benjamin Pollard. Dunlap is a good friend of mine, and I’m rooting for him. I enjoyed working with Matt during his eight years in the Legislature, and I thought he did a superb job as secretary of state.

Matt has a particularly strong pull in rural Maine because of his outstanding record of support for and service to sportsmen. He’s an enthusiastic hunter and angler who is currently doing a lot of that with his daughter Emily.

My enthusiasm for Matt may cloud my judgment on this one, but I think he should win. Some Democratic leaders, however, tell me that Dill is a real threat — sufficient that quite a few of them are actively working to stop her.

They know that her ultra-liberal views and erratic behavior (such as picketing President Barack Obama during his Maine visit) will relegate their party’s nominee to a tiny portion of the general election vote, perhaps jeopardizing the Democrats’ hope of reclaiming the Maine House and Senate.

Although these two primaries may turn out to be irrelevant as King marches to victory, the choices you make on Tuesday will dictate what the U.S. Senate campaign looks like for the next five months.

And I know most of you, before reading this column, couldn’t name one of the Republican or Democratic candidates running for the Senate. But now that you do know who they are, let me ask again: Do you know who to vote for?

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] gmail.com. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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