By Al Diamon
Created Sep 24 2007 - 12:29pm
September 24, 2007
Democratic state Sen. Ethan Strimling of Portland has resigned as co-host of a weekly talk show on WGAN radio. The Saturday morning program, which also features former Republican state Sen. Phil Harriman of Yarmouth, has lately been the subject of criticism from myself and others, because Strimling is an unannounced (just barely) candidate for Congress from Maine's 1st District.
Strimling told listeners he was calling it quits during his broadcast on Sept. 22. According to WGAN program director Jeff Wade, Strimling made the decision on his own and wasn't pressured by the station to leave due to his political activities.
"We were happy to have Ethan here as long as he wanted to host, and there were no legal issues," Wade said. "He always provoked lots of comment."
Some of that comment of late concerned Strimling's skirting of federal rules that require stations to provide equal time to all announced candidates for the U.S. House or Senate. In May, he held a news conference to say he was forming "an exploratory committee" for his congressional bid and had scheduled several fundraisers. Since then, he's avoided taking the final step of making his candidacy official, which allowed him to continue his on-air gig without crossing legal lines.
Ethical lines were another matter.
Strimling's non-candidate status effectively denied his four opponents in next June's Democratic primary any chance of matching his exposure on WGAN, even though Strimling appeared to be campaigning as hard as they were. But WGAN's Wade said the station was not concerned about this seeming inequality.
"There really isn't an ethical issue at this point," he told me in June. "It's not even a discussion, yet."
Strimling may be gone, but it's still not too late for WGAN - and other stations that may find themselves in a similar situation in the future - to have that discussion.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.