Monday, April 21, 2014
Morning Sentinel Staff
WATERVILLE -- A week after attacks over a Waterville state Senate's online gaming and blog posts made national waves, a Washington, D.C.-based Democratic group said it's "perhaps the most nationally watched legislative race in the country right now."
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Colleen Lachowicz, Democratic candidate a seat in the Maine State senate, center, speaks with Douglas Archibald, right, and Debra Campbell,left, at 43 Burleigh St in Waterville Thursday. Lachowicz is running for the seat in a Senate district encompassing part of Waterville, Winslow, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Detroit, Pittsfield and Unity Township.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee on Thursday released a list of 60 races in 23 states that it considers key battlegrounds in state legislatures across the country, including Senate District 25, which includes the city.
But while the group looks to capitalize on the high-profile attacks, committee spokesman Dan Roth said the race won't receive money it's setting aside to influence legislative races that could tip the balance of power in the Maine Legislature.
The race between incumbent Republican Sen. Thomas Martin and Democratic challenger Colleen Lachowicz gained national attention last week when the Maine Republican Party created a website and released a corresponding mailer detailing Lachowicz's online gaming history, calling it her online fantasy world. The site includes histories of her World of Warcraft gaming and blogging, and the Maine GOP said Lachowicz gets away with "crude, vicious and violent comments."
Those accusations, coupled with images of Lachowicz's orc character in the massive online role-playing game, were picked up by a number of national media outlets such as CNN, Politico and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
Lachowicz's bid for the Senate seat received the second-most grassroots nominations -- from hundreds of bloggers, party officials and others -- of any in the country on the list, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
"As a trained social worker and the director of a school-based counseling program in Kennebec County, Democrat Colleen Lachowicz would probably agree that everyone needs some kind of outlet for the frustrations of everyday life," the committee said in a release. "Hers is World of Warcraft ... and it's so far earned her a GOP-sponsored attack website, mailers to most of the voters in her district, and a wall-to-wall GOP media blitz -- all focused entirely on attacking Lachowicz for being a gamer.
"It remains to be seen whether their strategy will be effective, but one thing's for sure: Republicans have succeeded in making Senate District 25 perhaps the most nationally watched legislative race in the country right now."
David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, said Thursday he was shocked Democrats would defend Lachowicz.
"As much as the Democrats would love to spin this as an attack on her simply for her gaming, that couldn't be further from the truth," Sorensen said. "This is someone who wrote often about how she was losing productivity and being lazy at her taxpayer-funded job due to her gameplay, and that is the kind of thing we are calling attention to. Is this really the kind of person people in the Waterville area want representing them?"
The district includes Waterville, Winslow, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Detroit, Pittsfield and Unity Township.
Sorensen pointed to Lachowicz's blog posts -- highlighted by the party on the website -- that are vulgar and use violent imagery. In one criticism of Republican tax policy, Lachowicz writes: "I may have to go and hunt down" conservative activist Grover Norquist "and drown HIM in my bathtub."
Other posts sharply criticize Republican Gov. Paul LePage, saying he campaigned for governor "on being a French orphan," referring to his stories of being homeless in his youth in Lewiston.
"Of course, I've never known any 11-year-olds that can support themselves except through drug dealing or sex work, and I work with kids," she writes.
Lachowicz, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, said in an op-ed column in Thursday morning's Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel that the attack on her was childish.
"They cherry-picked comments I made as a private citizen in an online game -- some of which are 7 years old. And they took them out of context in order to paint me in an unfair light."
She also said her online gaming "has nothing to do with getting Mainers back to work, lowering health care costs or improving Maine schools."
Sorensen doesn't buy her explanation.
"Most politicians in Ms. Lachowicz's position would have apologized by now, and the Republican Party certainly wouldn't be defending them," he said.
Roth, the committee spokesman, said the Maine GOP's attacks against Lachowicz were so unusual and that's why the story gained national traction. Roth said he first learned about it when Lachowicz was recently interviewed on CNN.
"It's for the very unique criticism -- not for anything else, apparently, than she enjoys playing video games," Roth said. "As someone who plays Angry Birds myself, I thought it was a completely new way of attacking someone."