September 29, 2012

Democrats pump $410,000 into TV ads in Maine U.S. Senate race

The move indicates the political parties see a lot riding on the race for the U.S. Senate.

By Steve Mistler
Staff Writer

The national committee that's working to elect Democratic candidates to the U.S. Senate will soon air more than $400,000 worth of television ads in Maine.

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Independent Angus King, left, Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill at a Sept. 17 debate.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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The ads may ultimately help independent candidate Angus King more than Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee confirmed Friday that it has purchased $410,000 worth of air time on Maine television stations. The ads will air from Tuesday until Oct. 12.

The decision by national Democrats to get involved in Maine illustrates the high stakes the two political parties see in the race for the seat now occupied by Republican Olympia Snowe.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's ad buys were confirmed by WGME-TV, the CBS affiliate in Portland. A representative from WCSH-TV, Portland's NBC affiliate, couldn't confirm the purchase.

Records from WGME, Channel 13, indicate that the ad will air 97 times.

The ad buy is a tricky endeavor for national Democrats, who have so far stayed out of the race and deferred to King, the two-term governor who is the front-runner in the polls.

High-profile Democratic candidates stayed out of the race because of concerns that dividing the Democratic and independent votes would throw the election to Republican Charlie Summers, who has been second in the polls.

Asked to comment on the ads late Friday, King's campaign sought to distance itself from them.

"This is a decision made by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee," said a statement released by the campaign. "I am running as an independent and we are going to continue to work on the important issues facing our state and our nation. As I said the night I announced, no one is going to tell me how to vote except the people of Maine."

Recent polls have shown King's once commanding lead shrinking, with Summers getting closer. While most political pundits believe he is still in control of the race, King has been hammered by more than $2 million worth of ads by national Republican groups.

The King campaign has struggled to respond effectively.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a written statement that the ad buy is designed to check Republican extremism.

"When Republican extremism forced Olympia Snowe to retire from the Senate, it presented a significant challenge to Mitch McConnell and the Republicans," Cecil said. "Republican special interests have now spent $2 million boosting a candidate who is fundamentally out of step with the state."

Cecil said Summers "is an anti-choice Tea Partier, who supports eliminating the Department of Education, privatizing Social Security, protecting tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and ending Medicare as we know it. Charlie Summers should not be in the United States Senate and it is time every Mainer knows it."

Michael Cuzzi, a former Democratic campaign strategist who manages the Portland branch of VOX Global, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, said the Democratic ad buy could double as "overture" to King.

"With control of the Senate incredibly close, the DSCC is hedging its bets and making an overture to King with a comparatively small investment in Maine's inexpensive media market," said Cuzzi, who writes a periodic column for the Maine Sunday Telegram. "The buy will help ease King over the finish line and undoubtedly comes with the hope that he could support a Democratic agenda in a closely divided Senate."

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