The television time was announced on Thursday, just before the U.S. House Speaker was set to come to Maine to support the Republican running in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
Negative advertising by a Democratic outside group began in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race on Thursday, the same day the Republican U.S. House Speaker came to the state, signaling an increased national focus on the district.
The candidates, Democrat Emily Cain and Republican Bruce Poliquin, have polled close so far and their parties have prioritized the race to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate whose party has controlled the seat since 1995.
On Thursday, the House Majority PAC, a group supporting Democratic congressional candidates, bought nearly $268,000 in ad time on television networks in Portland and Bangor, according to spokesman Matt Thornton.
Their ad, slated to hit the air on Friday, attacks Poliquin for, among other things, his support of a budget proposal that would change Medicare, the federal health care system for the elderly. Poliquin’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“In congress, it is clear that Bruce Poliquin would do more for his buddies in the insurance industry than his constituents in Maine,” Thornton said in a statement. “Emily Cain is an up-and-coming star who will put seniors above corporate profits.”
The House Majority PAC is an influential group, putting in nearly $6 million so far this election cycle. It’s the first outside money spent of Maine’s 2nd District race since the June primary.
As a super PAC, the group can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or attack candidates. This year, it’s done mostly attacking, spending $4.9 million to oppose Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
S. Donald Sussman, the financier husband of Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District and the majority owner of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, has given $1.1 million to House Majority PAC and $32,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since February 2013. He has also donated to Cain.
Also on Thursday, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was headed to Maine for a closed-door fundraiser for Poliquin at Portland’s Holiday Inn By the Bay. An invitation to the event says the minimum donation accepted to get a ticket is $250, with $1,000 buying a photo with Boehner.
A spokeswoman for House Majority PAC’s Republican-backing counterpart, the Congressional Leadership Fund, said the group hasn’t invested in the 2nd District race yet, but said it is “one to watch.” Republicans are expected to fare well nationally in 2014, a midterm year for Democratic President Barack Obama.
Earlier this month, Poliquin, 60, a former state treasurer from Oakland, was given “Young Gun” status by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s campaign arm.
That puts Poliquin in the highest of three tiers in the program, which is designed to identify and aid Republicans who should contend for congressional seats. Cain, 34, a state senator from Orono, has been placed in a similar program by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The Democrat has narrowly led in polls of the race so far. The only independent one, from the Portland Press Herald in June, had her up on Poliquin 44 percent to 39 percent, a difference that was within the margin of error.
Some have said that the race’s third candidate, independent conservative Blaine Richardson of Belfast, could tip the race in Cain’s favor: A memo from a Poliquin internal poll released earlier this month said Richardson with 6 percent support, and Poliquin has asked Richardson to drop out of the race.
This story will be updated.
From Kennebec Journal on September 25, 2014.