Is state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin the front-runner in the six-way race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate?
Poliquin isn't the only one to think so, especially after rival Republican candidates criticized him in the media last week.
The GOP race had been decidedly friendly until Poliquin drew fire from opponents for running on the coattails of Gov. Paul LePage. The conservative governor's support would carry a lot of weight in the GOP primary, except for the fact that LePage hasn't endorsed anyone. Then Poliquin was criticized for siding with environmentalists and opposing the widening of the Maine Turnpike two decades ago.
It is true that political attacks are most often aimed at the front-runner. But there is another theory circulating, as well: Poliquin is losing the race, but he's an easy target for opponents who want to get some media attention in the final days of the primary campaign.
There are no independent polling numbers to say for sure who is right.
The identity of the front-runner, if there is one, could become clearer this week when the six candidates share the stage for a final round of debates.
The Portland Press Herald, WGME-TV and WGAN radio are sponsoring a televised debate Saturday evening. Look for the candidate with the big target on his or her back. If there are any doubts then, it'll all be cleared up June 12.
The money lead
Poliquin is clearly leading his rivals in one area: spending his own money.
The treasurer issued a news release last week saying he had raised $229,214 in the latest campaign finance reporting period, more than any other Republican in the race. However, unlike some of his opponents, he would not say where the money came from or how much he donated to his own campaign.
The filing indicates he personally contributed $109,005, or just less than half of that total, according to the Federal Election Commission. The FEC has not yet made available the full report, which will show who donated the other $120,000.
Poliquin's personal investment was widely expected. Poliquin, a former investment manager, self-financed most of his unsuccessful $700,000 gubernatorial campaign in 2010.
But it is sure to be used against him by his rivals, who proudly raised nearly all of their own money the hard way: asking and pleading.
Here is what the other candidates donated to their campaigns and their latest reported fundraising totals:
* Bill Schneider gave $3,142 out of $76,223
* Rick Bennett gave $2,500 out of $184,303
* Debra Plowman gave $160 out of $25,422
* Charlie Summers gave $0 out of $89,915
* Scott D'Amboise gave $0 out of $609,831
Shadow of 2010
There was plenty of energy and enthusiasm at the Democratic State Convention this past weekend. But the shadow of the 2010 election was obvious, too.
Party leaders made no effort to gloss over the historic defeat two years ago that gave Republicans control of the governor's office and Legislature.
"We learned the hard way in 2010," Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant told the delegates. "You're time and money will be spent smarter this year."
Two years of being in the minority was just the thing to unify the party, leaders said. Organizers of the convention also made a conscious choice to showcase the party's new leadership.
While former Gov. John Baldacci made a low-key appearance at the convention Saturday, two rising young stars delivered prime-time speeches. Senate Assistant Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, had the delegates waving signs and shouting a new party slogan, "We Have Your Back."
Maine Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, isn't exactly a young, new party leader. Hobbins has hit his limit for service in the state Senate and is running for a seat in the Maine House. But he said he wouldn't be campaigning again if he thought Democrats would still be the minority party next year.
"We learned from our mistakes in the 2010 election and we pledge that never will it happen again," Hobbins said.
Pollard wins friends
The Democrats' convention didn't have the drama of the contentious Republican gathering a few weeks ago. But it wasn't entirely predictable, either.
U.S. Senate candidate Benjamin Pollard gave an entirely unconventional convention speech. He talked about the need for "a new public consciousness" and his dreams of world peace. He quoted Gandhi -- "being the change I want to see in the world." He even asked the delegates to hold their applause until the end, though he later admitted that was a bad idea.
"I made a mistake. I should have let you applaud all long because it gives me time to relax," he said.
Pollard paused a couple of times when he caught himself "droning on a bit" about foreign affairs or trade policy "I'm going to try to step up the enthusiasm," he said, taking a breath and sharing a laugh with the audience. "But you're all doing great."
Pollard may not have won the delegates' votes, but his honesty and idealism earned him a standing ovation.
John Richardson-- 791-6324
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