ELLSWORTH — Ninety minutes into Saturday’s forum for the three Democratic candidates for Congress, one of them said what had become evident.
“We could do each other’s stump speeches,” said Craig Olson of Islesboro.
Olson, a former selectman who runs the Islesboro transfer station and operates a rare book business, took the stage with Lucas St. Clair of Hampden and Jared Golden of Lewiston. The forum was organized by the Hancock County Democratic Committee.
The three contenders opened with criticism of Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin, who is seeking a third term as Maine’s District 2 U.S. representative.
They took strong exception to Poliquin’s support of the Republican tax cut. Golden, Democratic assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives, called for a redistribution of wealth and preservation of government services.
St. Clair, who championed creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, noted that Poliquin opposed that initiative. St. Clair invoked the bigger picture: “The administration has a vendetta against our environment.”
Golden advocated staying “focused on doing what’s right for the environment.” Olson urged leaders to “take up the mantle of science” and pushed for alternative energy.
The forum format had each of the candidates respond to questions prepared by the host committee. The topics included health care, protecting the Gulf of Maine, environmental protection, education, post-recession banking safeguards and dark money in political campaigns.
Often, as Olson’s quip suggested, the candidates agreed with one another’s responses. They were as one on protecting Social Security and Medicare, environmental protection and support for public education — pre-K, in particular. None of the three is anti-gun, though they variously supported hunter safety classes, background checks and opposed high-capacity magazines and “militarized” guns, such as AR-15s. Golden, a Marine combat veteran, noted that he had “a D-rating from the NRA.”
Olson and Golden decried the deregulation of Wall Street. St. Clair began his response saying, “I agree with both Jared and Craig.”
The sole departure from harmony came up in the discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision and the flood of dark money. All three condemned abuses in campaign funding and spending, calling for transparency. Golden took it a step further, questioning the recent Maine Outdoor Alliance television ads.
The commercials sponsored by the Maine Outdoor Alliance promote the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and call on citizens to help protect it. Critics say the monument isn’t under attack and that the ads appear to be promoting St. Clair, whose family donated the land.
St. Clair did not respond to Golden’s mention of the ad. On Tuesday, in response to a query from The American, St. Clair spokesman David Farmer said “our campaign found out about the ad at the same time as everyone else. Lucas has publicly asked the group to take down the ad. … We don’t know anything about Maine Outdoor Alliance other than what has been reported.”
Among the details that have been reported by the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald are the findings that the director of the nonprofit Alliance was St. Clair’s best man at his wedding and the TV ads were arranged by a firm that has worked with St. Clair’s mother, Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby.
The Democratic Committee is hosting the Democratic candidates for governor tonight, Thursday, May 17, at 7 at the Moore Center.