A candidate running for a state Senate seat said video footage of him dancing in a Speedo for a drink commercial was being taken out of context — and a little too seriously — by political opponents.
Eric Brakey, a New Gloucester resident and Republican who recently announced his candidacy for Senate District 15, said a video circulating on the conservative website As Maine Goes and criticized by some activists was an outtake of a commercial for Vita Coco Coconut Water, a drink sold in stores across the country.
Brakey, an actor by profession, also appears in the full-length commercial dancing in a Speedo in front of a mirror. Other Speedo-clad men also appear in different scenes of the commercial dancing the samba, a Brazilian dance, in what is designed to be a comedic performance.
“It was a great, fun opportunity,” he said of the video shoot. “It was a comedy piece to promote the product.”
Brakey said that he appeared in the spot while acting in New York City. Both the original outtake video and the commercial were posted on YouTube by Vita Coco.
An altered outtake of the video featuring only Brakey was posted on As Maine Goes and circulated to the media and church pastors by Mike Hein, a former employee of the Christian Civic League of Maine known for strong conservative views on issues such as abortion and gay rights. Hein, in his email, wrote that Brakey looks as if he was a “demon possessed.”
The video has been altered to freeze and rewind some of Brakey’s dance moves, including a cartwheel, although Hein said Tuesday he did not alter the video and didn’t know who had.
Hein posted a comment on Brakey’s YouTube channel mocking Brakey. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t Mr. ‘Family Values Matter’ State Senate candidate himself flamboyantly prancing around in his underwear,” he wrote.
Some commenters on As Maine Goes said the commercial showed that Brakey wasn’t a serious candidate. One commenter with the screen name “Fred Prince” wrote, “This weirdo has more control of the Maine Republican party than the governor does. Time for some self-reflection people.”
Brakey, who turns 25 on Thursday, brushed off the criticism.
“It shows that I’m a full human being with more experience than just working in politics,” Brakey said. “I think that’s something that people want. It shows I’m not just a career politician. … I’m a professional actor.”
Brakey said he graduated from Ohio University with a theater degree, worked for two years in New York City and continues to pursue acting gigs.
Brakey recently appeared in a theater production of the “Odd Couple,” playing the character Felix. He is scheduled to appear in the play “Spamalot” at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center in Auburn this weekend.
“If there’s people offended by comedy, then I won’t tell them to see Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot,'” Brakey said. “There’s probably a lot more to be offended by in ‘Spamalot’ than (in) this commercial.”
Brakey has been involved in Maine politics for the past couple of years as one of a group of activists supportive of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a libertarian icon. Brakey and other activists also helped forge a takeover of the 2012 Republican state convention to help elect delegates supportive of Paul, a presidential candidate at the time.
Brakey has since been involved with the Defense of Liberty political action committee, a group promoting libertarian causes and lobbying state lawmakers on issues such as taxes and bills promoting privacy.
He recently announced his candidacy for Senate District 15, comprising portions of Auburn, New Gloucester and Poland. The seat is currently held by Sen. John Cleveland, D-Auburn.
Brakey said he wasn’t worried about the commercial being used in political attack ads.
“It shows another side of me that voters need to see,” he said, adding that there are probably a lot of videos showing him performing. “If people want to look into that, that’s OK.”
The personal and professional lives of political candidates are frequently used against them, especially when caught on film or video.
Last year, the video gaming habits of state Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, were blasted in a campaign mailer sent by the Maine Republican Party. The party claimed that Santiaga, Lachowicz’s character in the hit video game “World of Warcraft,” showed the candidate’s “disturbing alter ego” and that the candidate was unfit for office.
In the 2010 U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown was mocked by Democratic operatives for appearing nude on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine when he was a 22-year-old college student. Scott later worked as a part-time model.
Both candidates won their contests despite the attempts to discredit them.
Hein, the activist who circulated the Brakey dance video, is a former Republican legislative candidate from Augusta who has been largely marginalized by Republicans for his strident views about homosexuality and previous attacks against others in his party.
He made news in 2006 by organizing a protest in front of an Augusta lingerie shop that was using scantily clad live models in its window.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to a charge of willful violation of the Maine Clean Election Act and was sentenced to seven days in jail. He had attempted to qualify for public financing under the Clean Election Act and needed qualifying contributions of $5 each from 60 registered voters. Hein pleaded guilty to paying the contributions himself.
Brakey attempted to use Hein’s objection to the video to his advantage, calling a press conference Tuesday afternoon to make light of the situation. Earlier in the day he tweeted, “I would be concerned that my campaign wasn’t on the right path if we weren’t being attacked by Mike Hein.”
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: