Crown Politics

Democrats spar over ‘dark money’ ads in contest to challenge Poliquin

Good morning from Augusta. The three Democratic candidates vying to face off against Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District agreed on most issues Wednesday night during a debate that was televised statewide.

One exception was their thoughts on how they are treating each other in campaign advertising. Maine House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden of Lewiston and conservationist Lucas St. Clair of Hampden clashed over advertising in the race, much of it coming from a third-party group on behalf of St. Clair.

The Maine Outdoor Alliance has bought television advertising supporting him and according to Golden, has sent three mailers to Democrats in the district during the past couple of weeks. St. Clair said again that he didn’t know the support for his campaign was coming, even though the Maine Outdoor Alliance is run by the best man at his wedding.

“I learned about the Maine Outdoor Alliance at the same time everyone else did, when the Bangor Daily News reported on it,” St. Clair said.

Golden pushed back.

“A mailer came to my house today,” he said. “This is an organization that says with a straight face that this is an issues ad, yet right front and center it says ‘Lucas St. Clair’ on it.”

St. Clair complained that he was being “attacked” in a television ad from Golden and said “we need to keep politics positive.”

The third candidate in the Augusta debate held by WMTW in Portland, WABI in Bangor and WAGM in Presque Isle, Islesboro bookseller Craig Olson, tried to steer the debate back to the issues, saying 2nd District voters “did not just fall off the turnip truck” and this debate is “taking more attention away from the issues facing Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.”

The rest of the debate addressed an array of issues on which the candidates agree, ranging from the need for better broadband service in rural Maine to all three saying they support a universal health care system. All three also said they oppose government entities randomly asking for citizenship documents unless there is a law enforcement reason to do so.

Olson made a conversation about ways to reduce student loan debt interesting. He said among other measures, the country should “seriously look at” allowing people to include their federal student loans in bankruptcy filings. Currently, those loans remain due even after a bankruptcy.

“You can lose your house, you can lose your car but that student loan is with you forever,” he said, adding later that he doesn’t think that option would be used “very often.”

St. Clair suggested ending the privatization of student loans and lowering interest rates, as well as reducing the cost of community college. Golden agreed about a cap on interest rates and said loan payments should be adjusted to scale with a person’s income. He also favors the government paying for two years of college in exchange for two years of service in the U.S. military.

Another point of disagreement is whether government should provide “safe-injection sites” where people addicted to drugs could inject themselves with medical personnel watching and treatment options available. Olson and St. Clair said they support the concept; Golden didn’t.

“I don’t think America should go down that path of having full-on legal use of harmful substances like opiates,” he said.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face an uphill battle against Poliquin. The Republican seeking his third term holds a major fundraising advantage in a district that has not voted out an incumbent in more than a century. Two independents, Tiffany Bond and William Hoar, also qualified for the November general election ballot.

The Fiddlehead Focus/St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Democrats spar over ‘dark money’ ads in contest to challenge Poliquin,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Christopher Cousins, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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