NEWS CENTER Maine’s Political Brew: Sunday, June 5, 2022

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine has some long-shot candidates seeking high office.

In the June 14 primary, Carratunk select board member Liz Caruso is challenging former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin for the Republican nomination for Congress in Maine’s Second Congressional District. Caruso has been getting more attention from the media of late, even as Poliquin refused to debate her.

Ray Richardson doesn’t think Caruso has much of a chance to win but added “In a primary, it’s all about who shows up to vote.”

Ken Altshuler believes voters in the second district are “probably not ready to go with someone who appears to be somewhat out on the [right-wing] fringe.”

Two unenrolled candidates qualified for the November ballot.

In the second district race, Portland attorney Tiffany Bond gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot for a rematch against U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and the winner of the GOP primary. She was one of two independent candidates who ran in the 2018 race, which was decided by ranked-choice voting.

But Richardson says Poliquin didn’t lose that election because of ranked-choice, but rather, “It was the fact that 60,000 people that voted for him in 2016 did not bother to show up and vote in 2018.”

He doesn’t expect Bond to be a factor, and neither does Altshuler. He said even if there is a red wave in the fall elections, “Maine is fairly independent, and people like Jared Golden.”

There is also a third candidate qualified to run for governor. Sam Hunkler of Beals is a political newcomer. He’s a physician who says he has worked in eight Maine communities.

Altshuler said we still “have a one-on-one campaign. Sam Hunkler is going to have no impact on this election whatsoever,” because he has no serious money behind him, nor are party members widely dissatisfied with Gov. Janet Mills or former Gov. Paul LePage.

Richardson said if Hunkler has any impact, it could be to peel some votes away from Mills, who “has had some trouble with her far left flank, and they may look for an alternative.”

Elections for district attorneys are usually low-key, small money affairs. But Cumberland County D.A. Jonathan Sahrbeck is crying foul because the Maine Justice & Public Safety PAC, which supports his primary opponent Jackie Sartoris, got a $300,000 contribution and has been running ads against him. The funding comes from Democratic mega-donor George Soros, who is also funding other progressive candidates around the country.
Sahrbeck calls it outrageous and said Sartoris should denounce the ads.

Richardson said this is simply the way of the political world today. And he added everyone should be asking “why in the world is George Soros playing in a district attorney’s race in Cumberland County, Maine, where there are about 200,000 people? He’s a sinister political figure, and this is dirty pool.”

And Altshuler added, “the Supreme Court has said pretty much anyone can give money to anybody they want, anytime, including corporations. Until you change the campaign laws, this is reality.”

Both of our analysts are skeptical that the recent string of mass shootings will result in any change in gun regulations.

President Biden delivered a prime-time address on the subject on Thursday, saying, “We need to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. If we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase it from 18 to 21. Strengthen background checks. Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability.”

Biden also said the Second Amendment is “not absolute,” and more needs to be done to address mental health issues.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is part of a bipartisan group of nine senators looking at things such as red flag laws and expanded background checks. On Friday, scores of high school students marched to her office in Portland to encourage her to support reforms.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut happened nearly a decade ago. Altshuler said no national reforms came from that incident, and added, “when you have elementary kids slaughtered, and nothing changes, nothing will ever change.”

He added, “I hear the argument, ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.’ Can we make it a little harder for people to do that? Can we do something? The answer is no. And until people stand up and insist on it, it’s not going to happen.”

Richardson said, “There are some steps we could take, and I think both sides might agree on some common-sense measures, but the fact is it’s not politically palatable, so they’re not going to do it.”

Our analysts also discussed the relatively large number of party primaries in legislative races, including an unusual state senate primary in the Orono area in which elected Democratic leaders in the senate have taken sides, something that normally doesn’t happen. 

And they talked about the $850 relief checks that the Mills administration will soon send out to most Mainers, and the politics behind making sure people get a physical check instead of an electronic direct deposit.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine’s Morning Report.

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