TV political ad crush imminent; Collins launches statewide tour; 7 stories you need to read

Political advertisements in the run up to the November election are beginning to blanket the airwaves as local and national groups who have vowed for months to funnel money to Maine are writing checks.

With Labor Day around the corner, the campaigns are about to reach a feverish pace and I’m comfortable making the prediction here and now that more money will be spent in Maine in the congressional and gubernatorial races this year than ever before. It’s a safe and easy prediction for anyone who has been paying attention to politics in recent months.

Competitive races for the Blaine House and the 2nd Congressional District, the mountain of cash Republican Sen. Susan Collins has in her arsenal against Democrat Shenna Bellows and a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that has led to an influx of corporate cash in elections, add up to the fact there will be no escaping exposure to candidates’ messaging. That’s unless you unplug your television, stay off the computer, turn off your radio and stop checking your mail, not that I’m advocating for any of that.

Though I doubt we’ll catch every ad, we’ll keep tabs on advertising and the flow of election funds here at the BDN and State & Capitol. To wit: the Republican Governors Association began airing a television ad Monday in support of LePage’s reelection. It emphasizes some of the governor’s accomplishments in economic development. Titled “Unique,” it tacitly addresses his nontraditional and sometimes brash governing governing style — over which LePage’s opponents have been hammering him over for years — by comparing his outside-of-politics roots to a series of anonymous political caricatures.

Distancing himself from gaffes that have put him in national headlines and enforcing his “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” theme could prove to be key for LePage as he and his opponents try to woo what appears to be a small number of independent voters. Here’s the ad:

RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said Monday that the advertisement is running in the Portland market, as opposed to statewide. Though Thompson would not comment on campaign strategy, targeting southern Maine voters — who as a bloc are generally more liberal — is something we’re likely to see more of from LePage.

On the same day as the release of the RGA ad, the Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund attacked the governor for his environmental record — and celebrated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud’s — in a two-week statewide television ad buy titled “Quality.”

The advertisement, which according to MCVAF director Maureen Drouin will run for two weeks at a cost of some $400,000, criticizes LePage on a number of fronts, including for his veto of a bipartisan bill earlier this year that was designed to protect Maine lakes from pollution. Among other reasons for his veto, the governor called a provision that would have banned the use of fertilizers within 25 feet of great ponds overly onerous to enforce and said it could stunt the growth of plants that help prevent erosion.

LePage’s veto was overturned in the House by a vote of 125-21 but was then killed in the Senate, which sustained the veto 21-14, which was short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto.

During his first term, LePage has often pitted environmental concerns against economic development through his directives for streamlined permitting at DEP, his continued calls for purchasing hydroelectric power from Canada — which comes after decades of efforts to remove dams in Maine — and his support of long-debated large-scale mining rules that the Legislature attempted to order a re-do of through a resolve. LePage’s veto of the attempt to overturn the rules was supported in the House.

The state’s largely pristine natural environment is an area that is important to Maine voters, many of whom live here because of it. There are powerful groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, among others, who will ensure that it remains an election issue.

Collins launches ‘All of Maine’ bus tour

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows completed a 350-mile walk from Houlton to Kittery earlier this month in an attempt to gain traction in her formidable quest to unseat Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who according to a recent poll still has commanding cross-party support from 57 percent of voters.

Beginning Tuesday, the Collins campaign will launch a bus tour that by the end of the week will match Bellows’ walk mileage — albeit on a bus — and reach Penobscot, Somerset, Androscoggin, Oxford, York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc Counties. Collins has pledged to visit all of Maine’s 16 counties by election day.

Collins is not taking anything for granted in her reelection bid. Campaign finance reports that at this point are somewhat dated showed that Collins had more than $4 million in cash on hand at the end of June, compared to about $650,000 for Bellows.

Michaud to release food policy plan

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how Maine can capitalize on its rural resources — and on drought conditions across much of the country — by increasing its agricultural stature.

On Tuesday in Augusta, gubernatorial candidates Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler will discuss their ideas in this area during a gubernatorial forum with the Agriculture Council of Maine. Michaud will unveil a new policy proposal, according to his campaign, which wouldn’t discuss what it includes. The forum, which will feature Michaud and independent candidate Eliot Cutler, is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine on Church Hill Road in Augusta.

LePage spokesman Alex Willette said Monday that LePage had intended to address the group but had to back out because of “state business.” Willette said the campaign will be addressing the group in writing. AGCOM is comprised of 33 agricultural associations, commodity groups and businesses, which together represent about 10,000 Maine people.

Recap: 7 stories you should read

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.