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State Legislative Campain Attack Ads Airing Already
08/02/2012   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

There's a kind of tradition in Maine politics to wait until after labor day to kick off ad campaigns for the state legislature. But this year Democrats are starting early by going after their Republican rivals, painting them as "rubber stamps" for the policies of governor Paul LePage. Republicans said claims made in the ads are full of holes and accuse the Democrats of going negative.

The ads claim the LePage administration has fallen flat on job creation, pushed for the approval of tax breaks for the rich and cuts to state health care programs. They also name names.

In addition to GOP State Sen. Nichi Farnum, of Bangor, the series of ads also target Republicans Chris Rector of Thomaston; Garrett Mason, of Lisbon Falls; Tom Martin, of Benton, and Senator Lois-Snowe Mello, of Poland.

"You there's a curious phenomenon in Maine where Republicans run as moderates and then govern as conservatives," Grant said.

Maine democratic party chair Ben Grant said the party is highlighting lawmakers perceived as being in lockstep with the governor when appropriate. All but one of the Senate districts targeted by the ads were held by Democrats two years ago. Rector is the lone Republican who held his seat two years ago and is perceived as a GOP moderate. At times he was at odds with LePage on certain issues, and Grant said Rector should have supported his convictions with his vote.

"I could care less if Chris Rector and Paul LePage get along or if they go out together after the Legislature closes for the day," Grant said. "What I care about is whether Chris Rector votes in line with LePage on his priority issues and the issues which have an impact on his district, on the widest swarth of Maine people. And I think when push came to shove, Chris Rector fell in line with Paul LePage far too often."

"It's a generic ad tying the Senate candidates to LePage which I find is odd," said Republican State Chair Charlie Webster. He said he's not sure why the Democrats have chosen to use LePage as the centerpiece of their attacks.

"Because every poll I've seen shows that LePage's approval rating, on the issues at least, is above 50%," said Webster.

Webster said Democrats joined right alongside Republicans in voting for bills that cut taxes and curbed state Medicaid programs. He said the ads cite job ratings from a November 2011 Forbes Magazine report, while nearly all of the Republican initiatives only took effect after the first of this year. He dismisses the Democratic ads as setting the wrong tone for the campaign.

"I don't do negative stuff like that, I just don't think that's appropriate," Webster said.

Grant said he's not surprised Webster would respond by accusing Democrats of going negative.

"Of course he's going to say that because he doesn't want to talk about the record," Grant said. "The record is that the Republicans in the Legislature have at many times abandoned their own constituents in their own districts in favor of what Paul LePage wants. And if you want to call that negative, he can call it whatever he wants."

There is precedent right here in Maine that shows such ad campaigns can be effective. Two years ago the Virginia-based Republican State Leadership Committee spent nearly $400,000 targeting five Democratic Senate candidates who all lost their races. The 30-seconds ads, funded by the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, are scheduled to begin airing tonight.

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