AUGUSTA — Democrats are calling on the Republican Party to retract campaign mailers that they say falsely blame gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud for the loss of jobs at a paper mill in northern Maine.

In the advertisement, Republicans link a law that Michaud sponsored 12 years ago to the recent layoff of more than 200 workers at the Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket, where the Democrat aiming to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage worked for 29 years.

Michaud spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said the ad is deliberately misleading and attempts to capitalize on the loss of jobs, which she said is “a slap in the face to all those workers who are unemployed.”

The law, which independent Gov. Angus King signed in 2002, was designed to keep the mill alive by allowing the owner to sell its dams and hydroelectric power stations. It also included a provision that prevented companies from shutting down production in order to sell the electricity generated by the dams.

Republicans say that was damaging to the mills, forcing the Legislature to pass another measure last session that eliminated that provision and allowed the East Millinocket mill to benefit from the sale of excess electricity generated by the dams. Supporters said that would help restart the mill and restore the lost jobs.

The 2002 bill was supported overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans in the House and was passed unanimously without a roll call vote in the Senate. Rick Bennett, now chairman of the Republican Party, served in the Senate alongside Michaud at the time.

Bennett said in a statement that he stands by the mailer and that he and other lawmakers relied on Michaud’s judgment as the bill affected his district. That turned out to be “misplaced trust,” he said.

“Congressman Michaud’s political operatives are simply desperate to talk about anything but the destructive consequences of Mr. Michaud’s actions,” he said.

But Maine’s Democratic Party said that in criticizing Michaud for a bill that their party’s chairman supported, Republicans have reached a “whole new level of hypocrisy,” proving that they’re running a “shoot first, aim later” campaign.

GOP spokesman David Sorensen said the party believes that it is an important piece of Michaud’s record that voters should be aware of and that Republicans will continue to hold Michaud responsible for the loss of jobs there.

“This won’t be the last of it,” he said.

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