Maine Legislative Candidates Feel The Effects Of The Clean Election Funds Standoff

Maine's State House. FLICKR

Maine’s State House. FLICKR

Two Republican state House candidates pleaded with the Maine Ethics Commission Wednesday to come up with a plan to fix a severe imbalance in the distribution of public campaign funds.

It’s the result of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s refusal to release over $1 million in funds already budgeted for Maine’s Clean Election program, and the House Republicans’ unwillingness to fix a drafting error that has frozen another $3 million to qualifying candidates.

LePage’s move to single-handedly block funds for Maine’s Clean Election program has held up money owed to more than 100 legislative candidates and one who is running for the office of governor. The Governor’s authority to do that is at the center of a lawsuit in Maine Superior Court that could be decided next week.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are refusing to fix a drafting error that could release more funds until a dealing involving unrelated issues can be worked out.

But some candidates affected by the governing paralysis are choosing not to direct their frustration at either LePage or the House GOP. Instead, they showed up at a Maine Ethics Commission meeting and urged the four member panel to intervene.

“She has been handed $5,075. I have been handed zero,” Mark Andre, a Republican House candidate, told the commission Wednesday.

Andre is running for the House district that includes Waterville and several surrounding towns. He narrowly won his publically-funded primary campaign and, because of the ongoing dispute, now has no money to run his November campaign.

His Democratic challenger, Colleen Madigan, did did get a check for just over $5,000. That prompted Andre to ask the commission to allow him to go around the rules and do traditional fundraising to loan himself money — anything.

“I understand this is a stretch, but I’m asking you to consider the harm on the other side, which is the complete inequitable funding of my campaign versus an opponent. And we are identical,” Andre said.

Jane Crosby Giles, a Republican state Senate candidate, had a similar message. Giles was fortunate to receive some clean election funding before the spigot was turned off, but her opponent, House majority leader Erin Herbig, beat her in the race to get supplemental payments — payments that Giles could get if the funding issue is resolved.

“I’m thinking forward to November, and I just want to proceed as a candidate in the race, that it’s being done in the fairest and most inequitable way possible. And right now, it doesn’t feel that way at all,” Giles said.

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