If it’s all about money, Governor Janet Mills and Congressman Jared Golden have the edge in their respective races. In some cases, money will matter; in others, it may not.
Money serves several purposes in a political campaign. It allows candidates to acquire the goods and services needed to get their name, bio and positions out to voters. Fashions have changed in campaign materials. Lawn signs are still in. Lapel buttons? Out. Television and radio advertising still happens (and happens and happens), but it is a nod to the dinosaurs among us. An online presence is now where the action is. Regardless of the medium, the message takes money.
The other role money plays is as a signifier. The ability to attract dollars can be a stand-in for the ability to attract votes. In addition to the amount raised, the source of contributions is another indication of a candidate’s likely success. Is it multitudes of small donors, signifying broad, grassroots support? Is it “influencers” who shape community opinion? Is it the well-heeled who can command the personal attention of candidates? Or is it a combination of those?
Governor Mills has a substantial lead over challenger and former governor Paul LePage when it comes to money, sitting on more than twice the cash on hand as LePage ($2.3 million to his $950,000). Neither candidate has a primary, which means they can conserve their funds for the lead-up to November, but this is one race where money might not be a determining factor. Having less to spend than his opponents did not keep Paul LePage from winning his previous two gubernatorial races.
Name recognition is not a problem for either of these candidates. We know who they are, and we know what they are. There is no more visible position in our up close and personal state than governor, and we have had ample opportunity to watch them both in action. We know their policy positions and their personal styles. Both inspire fierce loyalties and staunch opposition. It is hard to imagine a newspaper ad or a glossy postcard that will shift a LePage voter to Mills or vice versa.
In the 2nd Congressional District race, Congressman Golden has raised more money than his Republican challenger Bruce Poliquin in the past two months, $350,000 to Poliquin’s $150,000, but Poliquin has a slight edge in cash on hand. As of the most recent filing deadline, Golden had $1.8 million in funds, Poliquin had $1.9 million.
Poliquin’s primary opponent, Liz Caruso, is a vanishingly distant third in the 2nd CD money race. With just $36,000 on hand and a lack of name recognition, she is not well positioned to succeed in her primary challenge. In her case money, or the lack thereof, will matter.
In Hancock County, the weird doubleheader between Rep. Nicole Grohoski and former representative and senator Brian Langley is putting up eye-popping expenditure numbers as one of the hottest contests of the season.
They are both running in two separate elections on June 14. One is a special election to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Louie Luchini’s resignation last February. That district has been unrepresented in the Senate since then. (Better late than never? We think not.) All registered voters in the district may vote, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, because it is akin to a general election rather than a primary. The winner will serve until after the November election.
The other is the primary for the same seat with new borders, to be voted at the general election in November. In a primary, only party members may vote. Neither Grohoski nor Langley has an opponent in the primaries.
Maine’s recent political redistricting means that district lines have changed. The special election to fill Sen. Luchini’s seat is for “old” Senate District 7. For the primary election, it’s still Senate District 7, but 10 towns are moving out of the district and five are moving in.
Good luck in finding out whether your town is in “old” District 7 or “new” District 7 and whether you can vote in either or both Senate elections. It takes sifting through maps old and new, proposed and final, but a straight-up list of the towns in each is hard to find. If you’re not sure, your town clerk will know.
There are independent candidates in the 2nd CD, gubernatorial and Senate District 7 elections, but they don’t come into the picture until after the primaries so more on them later. In the meantime, it has been an eerily quiet pre-election season. The country is ablaze with political disharmony, but that is showing little signs of translating into the one thing we can do about it all – go to the polls and vote. You should, though. See you there.
Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.