The Maine Republican Party has been installing signs in Aroostook County that mimic campaign signs posted by Senate President Troy Jackson and falsely claim the Democrat wants to cut funding for police.

The signs have blue letters against a white background, similar to some of Jackson’s official campaign signs. But fine print at the bottom of the signs say they are paid for by the Maine Republican Party, a disclosure required by state law.

The party posted a photo of the signs on Twitter over the weekend without acknowledging its involvement.

The Maine Republican Party is posting this sign to mimic actual campaign signs posted by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, a Democrat. Jackson has actually voted against defunding the police. From @mainegop on Twitter

“Spotted at the Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfield … Vote Troy Jackson – Defund the Police!” the tweet states, along with two photos of the signs.

The signs seek to tie Jackson to the defund the police movement, which sprang up in response to the police killing of George Floyd and other Black people in 2020 and has been used around the country to portray Democrats as anti-law enforcement.

Jackson called the signs a “flat out lie” and that he has been “100 percent in support of our law enforcement,” adding that police funding has increased during his tenure. Jackson voted against the one bill introduced last session that would have taken away police funding.


“Maine Republicans, Senate Republicans, and my opponent know this is (expletive),” said Jackson, who lives in Allagash and is being challenged by Rep. Sue Bernard, R-Caribou. “They must be feeling that my record has got me ahead of them so they have to cut me down and try to make people believe this lie so they can win. If that’s how you gotta win, that’s pretty damn sorry on their part.”

But even false campaign claims can have the desired effect, he said.

Troy Jackson, president of the Maine Senate.  Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“There are people that are just going to believe it,” he added. “And other people, you spend so much time talking about something that isn’t accurate and not even close to true. But you have to address it, as opposed to the real issues that are affecting us right now and the real things we may be able do to help.”

A spokesperson for the Maine Republican Party could not cite a vote or statement to support the claim and instead pointed to Jackson accepting assistance from an out-of-state group that is affiliated with another group that offered model legislation across the United States to study police spending and the possibility of reallocating it to social programs or education. Such legislation, called the Community Reinvestment Act, was never proposed in Maine.


The tactic highlights the aggressive campaign strategy being employed by Republicans, who many pundits believe are poised to make major gains in the November election because of President Biden’s unpopularity, inflation, rising gas prices and the exploitation of controversial cultural issues such as critical race theory, transgender rights and immigration.


Republicans are hoping that the national political environment, coupled with former Gov. Paul LePage running at the top of the ticket against Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, will help the party gain control of at least one, or both, of the state’s legislative chambers this fall.

It also highlights how badly Republicans want to unseat Jackson, an experienced and outspoken Democratic leader.

This is the second time Republicans have deployed lawn signs in an effort to tie Democratic candidates to national issues. During the Democratic state convention in Bangor, Republicans placed “Biden Mills Gas Hike” signs in front of the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, where their rivals were gathered.

Typically, campaign signs promote a person seeking an elected office, or urge voters to approve or oppose a specific referendum.

Mark Brewer, professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Maine, Orono, said signs like those posted in Aroostook County appear to be part of a relatively new trend in Maine politics.

“What it shows me is how much national politics is penetrating down to state and even local politics,” Brewer said. “American politics is becoming more nationalized every year.”



Republicans aren’t the only ones who have deployed fake campaign signs to try to hurt an opponent. Democrats tried a similar tactic in 2020, when they put up “Trump Collins” signs in Portland that mimicked Trump-Pence campaign signs. Democrats defended the tactic by saying Sen. Susan Collins voted with former President Donald Trump 94 percent of the time and helped confirm 181 of his judicial nominees. Collins’ campaign dismissed it as a petty stunt.

Although he was not involved in that effort, Jackson said the signs being installed by Republicans this election cycle are worse because they contain obvious lies. He said the Biden-Mills signs falsely suggest that the Democratic incumbent had raised gas taxes, when she didn’t. And the defund-the-police signs being put up in the county have no basis in reality, he said.

The Legislature took up one bill in the recent session that would have removed some police funding.

L.D. 1278 would have defunded the Maine Information Analysis Center, one of several so-called fusion centers created to enhance national security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but has since faced accusations that it spies on protesters and monitors Facebook accounts. But that bill died between the chambers, with the House in support and the Senate opposed.

Jackson voted against defunding the center in a June 14, 2021, roll call vote. And a spokesperson noted that Jackson has supported budgets that increased funding for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, enhanced retirement benefits for corrections workers, and increased revenues to municipalities that could be used to fund law enforcement operations in local budgets.



Maine Republican Party spokesperson Riley Ploch could not point to one vote or statement from Jackson to back up the claim that he supports defunding the police.

Instead, Ploch pointed to the endorsement of Jackson and nine other Senate Democrats by the States Project, a national group that supports Democratic candidates for state Legislatures. Jackson referred to the group as Democrats’ “strongest ally” in 2020, when Democrats expanded their Senate majority.

The group is affiliated with the Future Now Action, which in 2020 had drafted model legislation for states interested in studying police funding and determining whether any of it should be diverted to social programs or education.

“Jackson strongly endorsed this group and their agenda while they were advocating for defunding the police,” Ploch said. “That statement is a clear as a bell: he supports them and their efforts, which include defunding the police.”

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which works to elect Republicans to Legislatures across the country, drew the connection in a June 21 news release and the attack was amplified by the Maine Republican Party and the Maine Senate Republican Majority campaign.


“If these 10 Maine Democrat Senate candidates care about the safety of their constituents and combating crime, they must reject the endorsement of the States Project and commit to returning any future donations this pro-defund the police group sends their way,” RSLC National Press Secretary Stephanie Rivera said in a written statement. “Maine voters deserve leaders in Augusta who support law enforcement, who will combat crime, and make their communities safe, rather than those bankrolled by special interest groups who want to defund the police.”


Bernard, the Republican running against Jackson, distanced herself from her party’s actions but did not condemn the signs or call for their removal. She would not answer a question about whether she supports the message.

“I did not pay for, or approve or even have any knowledge about those signs,” she said in a text message. “It is not part of my campaign.”

Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, who is overseeing the Republican Senate campaign, did not respond to an interview request on Tuesday.

The States Project endorsed nine other Senate Democratic candidates – Joseph Baldacci of Bangor, Chip Curry of Belfast, Nicole Grohoski of Ellsworth, Craig Hickman of Winthrop, Dave LaFountain of Winslow, Timothy Nangle of Windham, Joseph Rafferty of Kennebunk, Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston and Bettyann Sheats of Auburn.

Ploch did not directly respond to a question about whether Republicans would put up similar signs in those races, based on the State Project’s endorsements.

“We’re going to make sure voters are aware of any Maine Democrats with defund-the-police views and backing,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate it’s gotten to this with them once again,” Jackson said of Republicans. “That’s what they do. When they don’t have anything credible to attack people with, they just make something up and that’s hard to campaign against.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story