The graveyard of Maine politics is crowded with the washed-out headstones of political candidates that crossed the line from honest debate to false attacks.

We have an old tradition here that has served us well: say what you want about your opponent but it better be fair and it better be honest.

Cross that line and the voters will make you pay.

We’ve seen that play out as far back as the David Emery campaign against George Mitchell and as recently as the Democrats’ assault on Eliot Cutler’s China connections in the last governor’s race.

National Republicans have been playing with fire in their attacks on Angus King and Maine voters are starting to notice.

Washington interest groups and shady attack dogs have now spent close to $1.7 million on three major ad campaigns against King.

Each has been more deceptive than the last. First they said that King left the state as governor with a billion-dollar deficit.

Any kid in a high school civics class would know that the Maine constitution requires a balanced budget every year.

It isn’t possible to leave office with a deficit.

After that bit of word-trickery, they progressed to outright deception, running ads praising Cynthia Dill as a ‘strong progressive.’

The ads were cynically designed to build her support among liberal Democrats while turning mainstream voters against her.

Now, in their latest ad attacking King’s wind projects, they’ve cut directly to outright fabrications, claiming that King used his influence to get a shady loan guarantee for a wind project.

Small problem: None of it is true.

As this and other papers have reported, those charges are just plain false.

As Mark Twain once famously said, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

These guys haven’t even had the decency to use statistics, being well content with lies and damned lies in large doses.

That, friends, is not the Maine way. We’ve never liked big out-of-state money trying to buy our votes, and I suppose this is why.

The Washington crowd, operating behind the secrecy provided by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling, doesn’t have to face the people they’re accusing. They don’t have to say where the big money is coming from. They don’t have to confront the people they’ve lied about at the local grocery store or the state legislature.

That’s because they won’t live in this small state after the election, they’ll just pack up and move onto the next battleground, leaving us to clean up after them.

You can almost hear these guys chortling in their penthouse command centers in Washington.

Spillover damage to state Republicans? Small potatoes. Disgruntled chambers of commerce? They’ll get over it. Dill complaining about ads pretending to support her? Just another woman griping about making her own choices. Playing loose with the facts? That’s just smart politics.

These people couldn’t care less about what Mainers think. They care about winning, at any cost, and protecting their power in Washington.

If that means destroying people and places to save them, well, that’s just collateral damage. But it’s a dangerous game they play.

The whisper of a backlash is beginning to build in Maine. These things always start quietly at dinner tables, coffee shops and water coolers.

Mainers have a kind of underground communications network for sharing concerns with each other.

It’s always reminded me of the way the old African village drums could sound an alarm to others. In Maine, the drums are starting to play across the state, softly now but growing louder each day.

It started with the Dill ad. It took a while for people, busy with summer’s final flurry, to figure out that they were being duped, but they got it.

Now the buzz is growing as people learn they’re not only being tricked but they’re also being lied to.

So what to do?

Well, if you want negative and deceptive campaigning fueled by tanker-loads of out-of-state money to become the norm in Maine, then do nothing.

If you want to stop it now, the election in six weeks offers us a rare opportunity to send a powerful message to the Washington crowd and to the country.

We can tell them that here in Maine we don’t like deceptive negative campaigning.

We don’t like big out-of-state spending. And we especially don’t like being lied to.

How can you make that happen? Beat the drums. Spread the word. Turn out in droves on Election Day.

Declare Maine’s independence from this unwelcome Washington campaign.

That’s a language they’ll understand. Loud and clear.

Alan Caron is a lifelong Mainer, a disgruntled independent Democrat, an author of “Reinventing Maine Government” who served on Gov. Paul LePage’s transition team and a supporter of Angus King. He can be reached at:

[email protected]