May 31, 2012

Poliquin TV ad, mailer draw fire from GOP rivals

By Eric Russell / Staff Writer

PORTLAND — State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, one of six Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate seat, has angered some of his competitors for producing a television ad and sending out a direct mailer that appear to imply he has Gov. Paul LePage’s endorsement.

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The Poliquin campaign sent this mailer to Republicans recently.

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Poliquin has been one of LePage’s staunchest allies over the last two years. He has appeared regularly with the governor at town hall forums across the state, has trumpeted the governor’s accomplishments often and, in some cases, has helped carry out LePage’s agenda.

Now, he seems to be using his relationship with the governor to his advantage.

A recently launched TV ad shows LePage and Poliquin hugging and a direct mailer sent to Republicans has the headline “Paul LePage and Bruce Poliquin: Two Conservatives Fighting for Maine’s Future,” with headshots of both men.

Some of Poliquin’s GOP rivals took exception to the implications of the ad.

Charlie Summers, Maine’s secretary of state, said Poliquin “crossed the line” with the ad and mailers.

“We’ve all got pictures with the governor,” Summers said in a phone interview today. “But we’re not all trying to take credit for things.

"We should be talking about the economy and focusing on the issues.”

William Schneider, Maine’s attorney general, had a similar reaction to Poliquin’s tactics.

“Throughout the campaign, Bruce Poliquin has attempted to ride the governor’s coattails and claim as his own the successes of the Republican administration and Legislature,” Schneider said in a statement Wednesday. “In fact, all Republicans have contributed in large measure to our successes. Poliquin’s recent mailing is remarkable in its bold attempt to imply an endorsement by the governor.”

Brent Littlefield, who is a political adviser to both LePage and Senate candidate Rick Bennett, agreed with Summers that any candidate could legitimately claim close ties to the governor. In addition to Littlefield, Ann Robinson serves as a campaign counsel to Bennett's campaign. Robinson was co-chair of LePage’s transition team. Bennett himself was a member of the governor’s transition team.

“He’s proud of that and proud of his record,” Littlefield said of Bennett, adding that Poliquin has never been in a position to vote to enact a number of the governor’s initiatives, such as tax cuts.

LePage issued a statement late Wednesday to clear up any confusion.

“As June 12 nears, I want to make it clear to Mainers that I’ve decided not to endorse a candidate in the Republican race for United States Senate,” the governor said. “Republicans have six well-qualified candidates to choose from. May the best person win.”

Adrienne Bennett, LePage's spokeswoman, said today that the statement was not necessarily a response to Poliquin's ad but because "assumptions were being made by Mainers."

Tyler Harber, Poliquin’s campaign consultant, responded to criticisms Thursday, calling them, “desperate and incorrect.”

“At no time, in any of our voter contact, have we ever asserted that we have Governor LePage’s endorsement,” Harber said in an email. “All the candidates were told by the Governor from the beginning that he would not get involved. It seems that Mr. Schneider is trying to get his name in the paper by attacking the frontrunner over nothing more than a superior strategy, message and history of reform.”

The two other GOP Senate candidates, Debra Plowman and Scott D’Amboise, could not be immediately reached.

After LePage won the GOP nomination for governor in June 2010 ahead of Poliqiun and five other candidates, Poliquin, quickly endorsed him and spent the next few months stumping aggressively for LePage. The governor rewarded Poliquin by backing him for state treasurer.

As treasurer, Poliquin has elevated what historically has been a low-profile office and some have criticized him for politicizing his day job. Poliquin also has taken heat for claims that he engaged in commerce as treasurer, a violation of the state Constitution, and for reportedly taking advantage of the state’s tree growth program to receive tax relief on his oceanfront home in Georgetown.

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: erussell@mainetoday.com

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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