Thursday August 02, 2012 | 12:35 PM

(This post has been updated to show a $75,000 contribution to the SDCC by Donald Sussman; the contribution was not listed in the most recent PAC report, but a pre-primary filing. - S.M.)

The Maine Democratic Party has begun running television and direct mail ads Thursday targeting five Republican state senators.

It's an early start for campaign ads about legislative races which typically begin until after Labor Day. It's also an indication of the high stakes attached to the battle for the Legislature. 

The ads, dubbed "Paul LePage & The Rubber Stamps," hit the GOP in potential swing districts by linking the legislators directly to Gov. Paul LePage's policy agenda. The ad highlights the Republican 2011 health care overhaul, describing the new law as "cutting health care" while benefiting insurance companies. It also highlights the state's low ranking in job creation.

Each ad identifies Sens. Garrett Mason (Lisbon Falls), Tom Martin (Waterville area), Nichi Farnham (Bangor), Chris Rector (Thomaston) and Lois Snowe-Mello (Poland). Each may be in for a tough re-election fight.  

The ads were paid for by  Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. The political action committee posted $28,809 in contributions during the most recent campaign filings and over $152,000 this year. The Maine Democratic Party transferred $50,000 to the PAC on July 12.

The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee also received a $75,000 contribution from S. Donald Sussman, according to Maine Ethics Commission pre-primary report. Sussman, owns The Portland Press HeraldMaine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. 

The ad was announced by the Maine Democratic Party in a release which describe the senators as enablers of "LePage and the Republicans’ failed record on the economy and middle class Maine families."

“Maine Democrats mean business this election season and that means making sure Maine voters know what’s happened in the Statehouse since 2010," Party chairman Ben Grant said in a statement. 

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster said the ads were "cobbled together and desperate."

"When you can't run on your record, you resort to baseless attack ads," said Webster in a statement. "Maine Democrats are following the Obama playbook of, 'when your policies caused the problems, just go negative and hope people will forget.' "


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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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