Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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. 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 still 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 did not disclose where the money came from or how much he donated to his own campaign.
The now public filing indicates he personally contributed $109,005, or just less than half of his total, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Poliquin has spent most of that money – he had $18,927.69 left as of May 23. But Poliquin, unlike his opponents, can always go back to his biggest donor for more money. Candidates can contribute an unlimited amount to their own campaigns, while everyone else is limited to $2,500 for the primary.
Poliquin’s personal investment was widely expected. A former investment manager, he 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
Poliquin’s financial disclosure also hints at how he was able to avoid filing a first-round financial disclosure report on April 1. All of the other Republicans did file, but Poliquin said he didn’t spend or raise enough trigger the reporting requirement at the time.
Poliquin said, for example, that he used volunteers to gather his qualifying signatures in early March, paying them only “pizza money.”
His newly filed report shows that he paid Maine College Republicans $1,797.50 to gather his signatures. However, he didn’t pay them until April 2, delaying any requirement to report the expense until now.
A DEMOCRATIC FRONTRUNNER?
There is no consensus about who is winning the Democratic Senate primary.
The four candidates remained collegial – at least in public – throughout the state convention in Augusta this past weekend.
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