Rodney Quinn died last weekend and that is good news for political blowhards, pontificators, phonies, bombastic orators, extremists who have no perspective on life, and political candidates who put up lawn signs on the side of the road.

Pardon the cliche — he was one of a kind.

Quinn was a retired Air Force pilot who possessed all the salt and vinegar associated with the profession in the movies, but could quote poetry when the moment commanded it (“The Charge of the Light Brigade” was a favorite; and who else knew the words, and military significance of, the song “Waltzing Matilda”?).

Quinn also was a self-described liberal Democrat. He got elected to the Maine House of Representatives from Gorham in the early l970s. He climbed up the party ranks to a leadership position.

Soon, he was helping other candidates run for office, raising money for people all over the state, all the while assuring Gorham voters that he was the same down-to-earth person they elected years before.

Quinn was a pragmatist. He recognized early on the tendency of some people in politics — “both Ds and Rs,” as he called Democrats and Republicans — to go to extremes.

He was also a nuts-and-bolts political campaign genius. He understood Maine voters (he once told me that a 34-word “statement of candidacy” that I wrote in response to a local newspaper questionnaire, was much too long.

“Most people will not read anything longer, or more complex, than their bar tab. Fight it, and you will soon be working at one of those Washington think tanks that employ defeated political candidates. Embrace it, and you will have a long future in politics!”

You know the visual blight you endure daily when driving around southern Maine, dodging lawn signs at each intersection? Quinn was early onto that issue.

“Please explain to me why a political candidate of otherwise good sense, sound motives and logical thinking would want to put a lawn sign that cost them $7 in a public intersection at the same spot where Adolf Hitler or Mussolini could put one if they were running? It just makes no sense. Lawn signs are for lawns! A placard placed on the green grass of Jerry and Susie Jones has much more value than one of those signs placed alongside dozens of other lost souls at the four-way stops.”

He shook his head at people who wanted too much out of signs.

“Lawn signs are to remind people to vote — and to put your name in front of them again, if they remember they met with you on their front porch months ago while you were going door to door. Lawn signs are not designed to be deal makers A to Z. No one ever got a vote from a voter just based on the voter seeing a lawn sign.”

He also said early posting of signs was nonsensical.

“Signs put out in August are guaranteed to be forgotten, and if left up for weeks, blend into the scenery. They are best used in the final days of the campaign. ‘Hey, folks — remember me? The election is Tuesday — vote! Etc.” He said candidates who relied too heavily on campaign signs — and did them too early — risk being seen by voters as desperate.

“Nervous Nellies put up too many signs and put them up too early. Bed wetters and thumb suckers, all of them,” he said.

Quinn gave politics a good name when he was secretary of state. He detested “name droppers and hobnobbers,” in politics, he said. Members of the Legislature would come to him at least once a week, hand him a parking ticket they had gotten for parking illegally at the State House, and ask him if he could “take care of this.”

That he would do.


“I would just go across the State House complex to the state treasurer’s office. Walk in, hand them the ticket, and say, ‘Hi, I would like to take care of this. How much do I owe.’” He said legislators were always “thrilled that I got the ticket taken care of.” He never told them how. He said he liked “the mystique I created — that I could make things go away!”

Goodbye, Rodney Quinn.

One of a kind.

Dan Warren of Scarborough is a lawyer and former member of the Maine House of Representatives.

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