AUGUSTA – This campaign season, Maine Republicans on Wednesday launched what’s expected to be a continued push against Democratic legislative candidates and what the Republican Party says is their resistance to efforts to overhaul the state’s welfare programs.
A new website created by the Maine Republican Party slams several incumbent Democratic candidates for their votes last session on proposals such as requiring welfare applicants to search for jobs before they can receive benefits.
Democrats say Republicans are distorting the truth and ignoring their efforts to compromise to bring some change to Maine’s welfare programs.
But Republicans, who are hoping to regain majorities in the House and Senate in November, say they will continue to highlight what they see as Democrats’ failures to enact safeguards against fraud and abuse in the system.
“Democratic politicians are on the wrong side of the welfare reform issue, and it’s important that Mainers know where they stand,” Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Chris Johnson of Somerville, one of the lawmakers targeted by the website, said the party is “playing fast and loose with the truth.”
The website says Johnson “supports welfare abuse” and “voted to allow welfare dollars to be spent … at places like Disney World, Las Vegas casinos and Hawaii” in reference to Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to prohibit electronic benefit transfer cards from being used out of state.
Democrats questioned the constitutionality of that measure and raised concerns about preventing people who live near the New Hampshire border from shopping there.
Johnson supported the amended version that would have directed the state to further study the extent of out-of-state use of the cards instead. It was vetoed by the governor and died in the Legislature.
Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said Republicans are being forced to campaign on the issue of welfare this year because they can’t run on LePage’s “failed record on jobs and the economy.”
“It’s not a surprise given the LePage and Republican failures on every other issue area facing Maine right now that they are going to rely on demagoging welfare and poor people this election season,” he said.