Collins, Bellows in TV ad war; Cutler passes on enviro endorsement; ‘Fear the beard’

Democrat Shenna Bellows, the former ACLU of Maine director who opposes Republican Sen. Susan Collins in the race to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate, took to the television airwaves Wednesday for the third time in her campaign.

Bellows, a long-shot candidate against the popular incumbent Collins in both the polls and money race, is in the midst of a 350-mile walk from Houlton to Kittery in an attempt to bolster her campaign. The walk, which models what former Republican U.S. Congressman and then-underdog Bill Cohen did in 1972 — provides the fodder for Bellows’ television ad.

The ad features several voters voicing why they favor Bellows, with reasons ranging from Bellows’ support of raising the national minimum wage to increasing social security benefits by asking the wealthy to pay more into the system.

Collins is also airing a television ad, which launched last week.

The ad, titled “Spent Grains,” focuses on Collins’ efforts to overcome an FDA rule that barred beer brewers from selling the byproducts of the brewing process — grains — to farmers to be used as animal feed. Collins framed her work on the bill as a economic development issue.

“The craft brewing industry represents nearly 1,500 jobs in our state and Maine brewers have earned a reputation for producing some of the finest beers in the world,” said Collins campaign spokesman Lance Dutson. “Sen. Collins led a bipartisan effort to protect these jobs and she continues to fight to make sure unreasonable federal regulations don’t get in the way of our job creators.”

The airing of ads by both campaigns is just the beginning of what looks to be an election season that could see more television ads than usual with so many state- and national-level campaigns to be decided in November.

Michaud endorsed by environmental group after Cutler bows out

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. BDN file photo by Troy R. Bennett.

Environment Maine has endorsed Democrat Mike Michaud in the gubernatorial race and pledged the support of its volunteers, who according to a press release will knock on thousands of doors over the next three months to elect him in November.

“Mike Michaud is the candidate with the best track record to protect Maine’s environment,” said Emily Figdor, the group’s director. “He has a stellar voting record on the environment in Congress and a strong vision to protect Maine’s natural legacy and transition our state to clean energy.”

Interestingly, independent Eliot Cutler pulled out of consideration for the group’s endorsement because of an informal survey Environment Maine was planning of its members.

“You have communicated to my campaign that your endorsement will not be based solely on your organization’s principles, so I do not wish to be considered for Environment Maine’s endorsement,” wrote Cutler at the top of a questionnaire on which the group partially based its endorsement. “Nonetheless, the questions you have asked in your survey involve important issues that I care deeply about and I hope that you will forward my answers to your entire membership.”

Figdor said part of the endorsement process involves seeking input from her group’s 20,000 members and supporters, in addition to the survey responses. It seems unlikely that Cutler would have received the endorsement anyway, based on the group’s concerns about some of his positions.

Figdor said Gov. LePage was never in the running for the endorsement because of his actions during the recent legislative session. LePage did not complete an endorsement questionnaire for Environment Maine, but you can read Michaud’s full responses here and Cutler’s here.

New group targets LePage in’Fear the Beard’ campaign

Hannah Pingree of North Haven. Contributed photo

Hannah Pingree of North Haven. Contributed photo

Former Democratic House Speaker Hannah Pingree, who is also daughter of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has moved back into the public spotlight for one of the first times since being term limited out of the Legislature in 2010. Pingree, who was one of the chief proponents of the 2008 Maine Kids Safe Products Act, has helped found a new group called Prevent Harm, whose focus will be to advocate against toxic materials in food and household products.

On Wednesday, the group announced its formation and launched its “Fear the Beard” campaign in response to an off-handed quip LePage made in 2011 around the issue of banning Bisphenol A (BPA), which used in some hard plastics and can liners.

“The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen,” said LePage in February 2011. “So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”

Prevent Harm is among numerous groups who worry about BPA’s harmful effects, which they say include cancer, learning disabilities, obesity and other health problems. LePage has questioned the need for state action on the issue and has said he wasn’t convinced by the science about the chemical’s effects.

About 50 people, many of them women wearing fake beards, gathered in Portland Wednesday to launch their group and the Fear the Beard campaign.

“We’re calling this the Fear the Beard campaign because so many Maine people are still irate over Gov. LePage’s ridiculous dismissal of the serious hazards to the health of Maine Children,” said Hannah Pingree. “it’s time to defeat this governor and elect leaders to Augusta who put Maine kids ahead of the chemical industry.”

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

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