Saturday, March 8, 2014
Poliquin under fire
Is State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin the frontrunner in the six-way Republican U.S. Senate primary?
Poliquin isn't the only one to think so, especially after rival Republicans candidates criticized him in the media last week.
The GOP primary race had been a decidedly friendly contest until Poliquin drew fire from opponents for running on the coattails of Gov. Paul LePage. The conservative governor's support would carry a lot of weight in the GOP primary but for the fact he hasn't endorsed anyone. Then Poliquin got criticized for siding with environmentalists and opposing the widening of the Maine Turnpike two decades ago.
It is true that the political attacks are most often aimed at the frontrunner. But there is another theory circulating, as well: Poliquin is losing the race, but he's an easy target for opponents who want to get some media attention in the final days of the primary campaign.
There are no independent polling numbers to say for sure who is right. The identity of the frontrunner, if there is one, could become clearer this week when the six candidates share the stage for a final round of debates. The Portland Press Herald, WGME 13 and WGAN radio are sponsoring a televised debate Saturday evening. Look for the candidate with the big target on his or her back. If there are any doubts then, it'll all be cleared up June 12.
His own biggest contributor
Poliquin is clearly leading his rivals in one area: spending his own money.
The treasurer issued a news release last week saying he had raised $229,214 in the latest campaign finance reporting period, more than any other Republican in the race. However, unlike some of his opponents, he would not say where the money came from or how much he donated to his own campaign.
The filing indicates he personally contributed $109,005, or just less than half of that total, according to the Federal Election Commission. The FEC has not yet made available the full report, which will show who donated the other $120,000.
Poliquin's personal investment was widely expected. Poliquin, a former investment manager, self-financed most of his unsuccessful, $700,000 gubernatorial campaign in 2010.
But, it is sure to be used against him by his rivals, who proudly raised nearly all of their own money the hard way: asking and pleading.
Here is what the other candidates donated to their campaigns and their latest reported fundraising totals:
— Bill Schneider: gave $3,142 out of $76,222.78
— Rick Bennett: gave $2,500 out of $184,303
— Debra Plowman gave $160 out of $25,422
— Charlie Summers: gave $0 out of $89,915
— Scott D'Amboise gave $0 out of $609,831
Dems emphasize new start
There was plenty of energy and enthusiasm at the Maine Democratic Convention this past weekend. But the shadow of the 2010 election was obvious, too.
Party leaders made no effort to gloss over the historic defeat two years ago that gave Republicans control of the governor's office and Legislature. "We learned the hard way in 2010," Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant told the delegates. "You're time and money will be spent smarter this year."
Two years of being in the minority was just the thing to unify the party, leaders said. Organizers of the convention also made a conscious choice to showcase the party's new leadership.
While former Gov. John Baldacci made a low-key appearance at the convention Saturday, two rising young stars delivered prime time speeches. Senate Assistant Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, had the delegates waving signs and shouting a new party slogan, "We Have Your Back."
Maine Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, isn't exactly a young, new party leader. In fact, Hobbins has hit his limit for service in the Senate and is running for a seat in the Maine House. But, Hobbins said, he wouldn't be campaigning again if he thought Democrats would still be the minority party next year.
"We learned from our mistakes in the 2010 election and we pledge that never will it happen again," Hobbins said.
Pollard offers something different
The Democratic State Convention didn't have the drama of the contentious Republican gathering a few weeks ago. But it wasn't entirely predictable, either.
U.S. Senate candidate Benjamin Pollard gave an entirely unconventional convention speech. He talked about the need for "a new public consciousness" and his dreams of world peace. He quoted Ghandi – "being the change I want to see in the world." He even asked the delegates to hold their applause until the end, though he later admitted that was a bad idea.
"I made a mistake. I should have let you applaud all long because it gives me time to relax," he said.
Pollard paused a couple of times when he caught himself "droning on a bit" about foreign affairs or trade policy. "I'm going to try to step up the enthusiasm," he said, taking a breath and sharing a laugh with the audience. "But you're all doing great."
Pollard may not have won the delegates' votes, but his honesty and idealism got him a standing ovation.