Sierra Club Maine endorses Cain; Alfond pays ethics fine; somber Senate tribute to McGowan

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, who is now running for Maine's 2nd Congressional District seat. Contributed photo.

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, who is now running for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Contributed photo.

Democratic Sen. Emily Cain of Orono, who is her party’s nominee for the open 2nd Congressional District seat, picked up the endorsement of the Sierra Club’s Maine chapter Wednesday.

Melissa Walsh Innes, the organization’s political team chair, said Cain earned the endorsement because of her stances on several controversial environmental issues in Maine and beyond. Cain is a proponent of fighting climate change, opposes the proposed Keystone and Northeast tar sands pipelines as well as oil drilling offshore or in protected wilderness areas. She is also against the prospect of an East-West highway in Maine.

“Emily Cain will be a strong Maine voice in Congress for taking action on climate change, promoting clean renewable power, defending our nation’s landmark environmental protection and conservation laws and calling for stronger health standards for toxic chemicals and other pollutants,” said Walsh Innes in a press release.

Cain said Thursday that she was pleased to be endorsed by “such strong advocates for the environment” but that it doesn’t mean she agrees with every stance taken by the Sierra Club, which is one of the most active environmental advocacy groups in Maine.

“It’s the role of groups like the Sierra Club to take a stand on the issues. It’s the role of policy makers like me to take a practical approach,” said Cain, who has also received the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters.

According to Glen Brand, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, one of Cain’s opponents in the 2nd Congressional District race, Republican Bruce Poliquin, didn’t respond to a questionnaire that was the basis of the endorsement. Brand said Cain’s other opponent, independent Blaine Richardson, was not sent a questionnaire because he is not seen by the organization as a viable candidate.

Poliquin campaign spokesman Matt Hutson said Thursday that the endorsement proves that Cain is “going down the path of extremists who put politics above the people” when it comes to the environment.

“The Sierra Club is simply a radical group of hard-core Democratic activists who want to push their party even further to the left,” wrote Hutson in response to questions emailed from the Bangor Daily News, citing a series of political donations the Sierra Club has made to Democrats. “Bruce Poliquin will work with moderate Democrats, independents and Republicans who want to ensure we have low gas prices and electric bills that don’t break the budgets of middle-class families.”

Asked if the Sierra Club endorses only Democrats, Brand pointed out the organization’s prior endorsements of independent former governor and U.S. Sen. Angus King, and former Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cohen, but that endorsements for Republicans are becoming more rare.

“The Republican Party has been increasingly associated with anti-environmental issues,” said Brand. “That trend has continued for years and has begun to creep into Maine. We see environmental protection and conservation as a bipartisan effort in Maine.”

Brand said the Sierra Club also endorsed Democrat Mike Michaud in the 2014 gubernatorial race after interviews with Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler. Brand said Incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage did not respond to the organization’s questionnaire.

(An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Sierra Club Maine had not yet endorsed in the governor’s race.)

Alfond pays fine for campaign finance violations

The Alfond Business Community & Democracy PAC, which is run by Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, has agreed to pay a $1,500 fine for filing errors by the PAC in October 2013 and January 2014. Based on the law, the PAC could have been fined more than $31,000 but ethics commission voted to reduce that fine during a meeting on Thursday.

Alfond said he chose to pay the lower fine because he wants to be “accountable and transparent about the relationship between money and politics.”

“Since I discovered and reported the error, I have immediately taken steps to ensure that these mistakes will not happen again,” said Alfond in a written statement. “I am pleased that the commission understood the circumstance and I will pay the fine immediately.”

Somber moments in the Senate to honor McGowan

The late Maine Rep. Paul McGowan, D-Cape Neddick.

The late Maine Rep. Paul McGowan, D-Cape Neddick.

The Maine Senate, which convened briefly on Thursday to confirm LePage’s nominations of the Hon. Jeffrey Hjelm of Camden to the Maine Supreme Court and William Stokes of Augusta to the Maine Superior Court. Both confirmations were unanimous and seen as formalities heading into Thursday’s session.

Because of the routine nature of the session, not much drama was expected, but that was not the way it turned out. Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, dedicated the prayer of the day to the late Rep. Paul McGowan and delivered it on the edge of tears. Alfond followed up with a moment of silence.

McGowan, 67, died Sunday at his home in Cape Neddick. His family announced in his obituary that McGowan committed suicide after an extended battle with depression.





Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.