Cape Elizabeth resident Cynthia Dill is the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. Really, she is.
One might not know that if one happened to visit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee website and clicked on the “races to watch” section.
Dill is listed as the Democratic candidate in the Maine section, but nowhere is she mentioned in the DSCC’s synopsis of the race. Independent candidate Angus King is, however, and the writer makes sure to remind readers that King is a supporter of President Barack Obama.
The overview of the races in other states is much different.
In Indiana, Democratic candidate “Joe Donnelly is exactly the kind of reasonable, honest and job-focused centrist Hoosier voters have always supported.”
In Massachusetts, candidate Elizabeth Warren is described as a “longtime consumer advocate and passionate defender of the middle class.”
Michigan Democratic candidate Debbie Stabenow “is a fierce advocate for Michigan’s economy, fighting to help businesses invest and create jobs in the state.”
And on it goes for the other Democratic U.S. Senate candidates.
The DSCC’s crickets treatment of Dill is no shock to those closely watching the U.S. Senate race in Maine. The Maine Democratic Party’s biggest stars bowed out of the race after King announced his candidacy, perhaps fearing a close contest would split the vote and hand the seat to the Republican nominee.
The prevailing narrative is that the party wants to play nice with King in the hopes that he’ll caucus with Democrats if he wins in November.
When Dill won the primary, many believed that she would be lucky to receive any support from national Democrats. Her recent campaign finance filing confirmed the conventional wisdom. The Washington Post blog The Fix cited Dill as one of the “losers” of the second-quarter fundraising cycle.
“Not only is the national Democratic Party basically ignoring its nominee in Maine; so are Democratic donors,” The Fix wrote. “Despite winning her primary during the second quarter, Dill pulled in just $66,000. That number makes former governor Angus King smile.”
Dill isn’t smiling. Last week she seemed to be positioning herself as an outsider candidate, ripping King’s high-profile dalliance with D.C. power lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta.
She told The Portland Press Herald that she had conversations with the DSCC political director but that she hasn’t heard about any support.
“I’m not waiting by the phone for Washington,” she said. “The message seems to be that they are, for the most part, welcoming one of their own,” a reference to King, who she described as a wealthy, country-club insider.
Dill amplified her displeasure last week with a letter to DSCC chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray of Washington. Dill publicized the letter with a news release titled “Dill calls out snub from Beltway Democrats.” In her letter, Dill effectively accused the DSCC for supporting King over her.
“Votes — not personalities — will change policies to help American families,” she wrote. “With this historic opportunity to turn Maine’s red seat blue and ensure a progressive agenda this November, the DSCC must not abandon its principles and supporters. There is simply too much at stake for the people of my great state, and this great country.”
Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said the DSCC has limited resources to support candidates and that little-known candidates such as Dill need to prove that they can be competitive before receiving financial support.
A recent poll commissioned by The Portland Press Herald showed Dill trailing far behind Republican candidate Charlie Summers and independent King. Only 7 percent of respondents said they would vote for her.
King spending on salaries
One of the striking details in the latest round of U.S. Senate campaign finance reports was the size of King’s payroll.
As of last month, the campaign was spending more than $25,000 every two weeks on salaries, which is the equivalent of a $650,000 annual payroll.
King’s Brunswick-based staff includes 16 full-time employees, including a campaign manager, a political and field director, a policy director and numerous deputy directors and other staffers.
That is considered a healthy size for a full-fledged Senate campaign staff, but King also has lots of free labor, including a list of 1,700 volunteers and 55 interns, or “Kingterns,” as they call themselves.
King’s opponents trail in fundraising and therefore have fewer staffers.
Summers has five full-time staffers and more than 100 volunteers. His campaign said it is actively hiring more staff and recruiting more volunteers.
Dill has four paid campaign staff members and about a dozen volunteers.
All of the campaigns also contract out work, such as public relations and media consultants.
Collins, Snowe taken to task
Lee Fang at The Nation has spliced together some CSPAN footage from 2000 to show how Republican senators have changed their tune on campaign finance disclosure.
The video shows GOP senators, including Olympia Snowe of Maine, urging their colleagues to support the McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation.
Those same senators voted Tuesday against the Disclose Act, which would have required groups, labor unions and nonprofits spending millions on campaign ads to reveal how much they spend and who their large donors are.
Fang writes that the Disclose Act “accomplishes essentially the exact same goal as Snowe’s amendment (to McCain-Feingold) over a decade ago.”
He added, “But her party has changed, and she (Snowe) along with it.”
In her 2000 remarks, Snowe said, “I hope that the Senate will stand four-square behind disclosure and sunlight and against the unchecked process of these electioneering ads that have certainly, I think, transformed the political landscape in ways that we could not possibly desire or embrace.”
Snowe, in a written statement, told The Portland Press Herald that she opposed the Disclose Act because it was hastily drafted and favored labor unions.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also voted against Disclose, despite having supported McCain-Feingold in 2000.
Collins said she supported campaign transparency laws and hoped to work with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to draft an alternative proposal.
Disclose would have required political action committees, nonprofits, corporations and unions to reveal donors who gave them $10,000 or more after the group spent more than $10,000 in campaign ads.
Critics of the GOP vote say the party caved in to pressure from the Republican National Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber argued that the bill would “silence free speech” and intimidate donors.
Transparency groups say such rationale doesn’t square with the reasons given by the five U.S. Supreme Court justices who loosened campaign finance laws by removing spending limits for corporations, unions and other groups.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion for “Citizens United” that disclosure permitted citizens to judge the speech — or campaign spending — by corporate entities.
Romney nabs ex-Maine lawmaker
The campaign for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney announced Tuesday that a former Maine lawmaker will lead the staff for Romney’s eventual running mate.
Randy Bumps, who served three terms in the Maine House of Representatives, will become the vice presidential candidate’s director of operations.
Bumps, who represented District 106 — China — between 1997 and 2002, formerly worked as the political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Bumps also served as the regional political director of the Republican National Committee and the Maine director for the George W. Bush re-election campaign. He was the Maine Republican Party chairman in 2005, as well as a staffer for Collins and former Republican U.S. Sen. William Cohen.
Bumps was identified in 1999 as a potential rising star in the Maine GOP. A quick library search shows that he supported a Republican initiative to require a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to pass any bill that would lead to a tax increase and other tax-related measures.
Bumps, who ran his legislative campaigns on a platform of decreasing Maine’s regulatory and tax burden, in 1999 complimented King after his first term in the Blaine House. Bumps said King took a strong stand for attracting businesses to the state.
King hits the road
King is about to roll out the heavy artillery: his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The 68-year-old former governor and a “gang” of his supporters will begin a 600-mile motorcycle tour of the state Monday. King will start in Fort Kent and end the ride in Kittery on Thursday.
Maine voters are familiar with the biker King, who rode in public charity events and showed off his wheels at the Blaine House as governor in the 1990s.
Spokeswoman Crystal Canney said it’s a good way to get out, away from the cellphones and meet voters in small towns.
The Harley also is a heck of a campaign prop, especially judging by how often King’s bike gets mentioned in the national media these days.