Saturday, March 8, 2014
State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, one of six Republican candidates for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat, has angered some of his competitors by producing a television ad and sending out a mailer that imply he has Gov. Paul LePage's endorsement.
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, a recently launched TV ad shows LePage and Poliquin hugging, and a direct mailer to Republicans has the headline "Paul LePage and Bruce Poliquin: Two Conservatives Fighting for Maine's Future," with headshots of both men.
LePage issued a statement late Wednesday saying he isn't endorsing anyone in the race to succeed Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.
"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's statement read. "Republicans have six well-qualified candidates to choose from. May the best person win."
LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said Thursday that the statement was not necessarily a response to Poliquin's ad but was issued because "assumptions were being made by Mainers."
Charlie Summers, Maine's secretary of state and one of the Republican Senate candidates, said Poliquin "crossed the line" with the ad and the mailer.
"We've all got pictures with the governor," Summers said in a phone interview Thursday. "But we're not all trying to take credit for things.
"We should be talking about the economy and focusing on the issues," he said.
William Schneider, Maine's attorney general and another candidate in the race, had a similar reaction.
"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 written 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, a political advisor to both LePage and Senate candidate Rick Bennett, agreed with Summers that any candidate could legitimately claim close ties to the governor. Ann Robinson, who was co-chair of LePage's transition team, is now a campaign counsel to Bennett. And 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 the governor's initiatives, such as tax cuts.
Tyler Harber, Poliquin's campaign consultant, on Thursday called the criticism "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."
Republican candidate Debra Plowman, the Maine Senate's assistant majority leader, said she is glad that the governor hasn't stepped into the race, and she isn't too worried about Poliquin's campaign.
"I'm going to run my campaign the way I see fit and he'll do the same," she said. "In the end, voters will make up their minds."
The other GOP Senate candidate, Scott D'Amboise, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
After LePage won the GOP nomination for governor in June 2010, beating Poliqiun and five other candidates, Poliquin quickly endorsed LePage and spent the next few months stumping for him. The governor backed Poliquin for state treasurer a few months later.
During his time as treasurer, Poliquin has elevated what historically has been a low-profile office. Some have criticized him for politicizing his position.
Poliquin also has taken heat over claims that he engaged in commerce as treasurer, in violation of the state Constitution, and that he took advantage of the state's tree growth program to get tax relief on his oceanfront property in Georgetown.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: