WATERVILLE — The Maine Republican Party is taking a Democratic state Senate candidate to task for playing a popular online game, calling her participation in “World of Warcraft” her “online fantasy world.”
The mailer also accuses her of making “crude, vicious and violent comments” on a liberal blogging website.
A Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman responded by criticizing Lachowicz’s opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Thomas Martin of Benton, citing more than $13,000 in fines levied against his construction company by the federal government since 2005.
Lachowicz — running for the seat representing Waterville, Winslow, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Detroit, Pittsfield and Unity Township — is a high-level player of “World of Warcraft,” an online role-playing game that takes place in Azeroth, a fantasy world, the Republican website says.
“I think it’s weird that they’re attacking me in this way instead of talking about the issues,” Lachowicz said in an interview at a supporter’s home Thursday evening. She said she hadn’t seen the site, but didn’t dispute any of the findings. She issued a statement to Huffington Post and other news outlets.
“Instead of talking about what they’re doing for Maine people, they’re making fun of me for playing video games,” she said in the statement. “Did you know that more people over the age of 50 play video games than under the age of 18? As a gamer, I’m in good company with folks like Jodie Foster, Vin Diesel, Mike Myers and Robin Williams. Maybe it’s the Republican Party that is out of touch.”
“They’re attacking her for playing a game 12 million people play,” said Lizzy Reinholt, a spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party. “This has nothing to do with policy.”
The Republican website also posted Lachowicz’s blog posts on the liberal website.
In one criticism of Republican tax policy, Lachowicz wrote: “I may have to go and hunt down” conservative activist Grover Norquist “and drown HIM in my bathtub.”
Some of the posts sharply criticize Republican Gov. Paul LePage. One says she doesn’t want LePage “anywhere near her” and said she “was in his office once and felt like I had to shower after I left.”
Another criticizes him for campaigning 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. “Odd that we never heard any of this when he was the mayor of Waterville.”
Lachowicz said the posts were made on a blog with a group of like-minded acquaintances.
“People who know me know the policies that my opponent and others have put into place are the reason I decided to run for public office,” she said. “I think these things were taken out of context.”
Dan Demeritt, a political consultant who was LePage’s first communications director, said that although the blog comments were fair game politically, the Republican effort to dig into Lachowicz’s online history crossed a line and won’t turn many voters against her.
“She owns the comments. The smart thing for her would be to apologize if they offended anyone and maybe an explanation that they were made in an intimate circle of friends,” he said. “But she doesn’t need to apologize for the gaming. There’s something a little creepy about digging into her habits.”
David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, wouldn’t talk publicly about how the party researched Lachowicz’s online history. But he defended the party’s pursuit of it, saying her gaming and blogging histories are intertwined.
“I think that definitely speaks to her work ethic, her maturity and her ability to represent the people of Senate District 25 in an effective, competent manner,” he said. “She’s not your average gamer — she’s a candidate for state Senate in Maine. I think the voters expect better.”
But Lachowicz’s gamer profile suggests she’s not obsessed with the game. It says she last logged into it in mid-September. Before then, she said she last played in January, but she has had her character for about four years. Her character is a level 85 orc, the game’s highest level, the profile says.
Martin, Lachowitz’s opponent, said he thought his party Thursday was hitting back against ads and mailers that Democrats issued against Martin and other sitting Republican senators earlier this year.
“The Democrats have made it very well-known that this is the seat they want to keep,” Martin said. “It looks like (Republicans) are fighting fire with fire.”
“Could I do without it? Yes, I could do without it,” he added.
As the GOP’s site gained attention throughout Thursday — the story was picked up by national news outlets such as Politico, the Huffington Post and NBCNews.com — Reinholt, the Maine Democratic Party’s spokeswoman, sent an email citing violations levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Martin’s business, Nitram Excavation and General Contractors, Inc., based in Benton.
Records show that OSHA has levied fines totaling more than $13,000 since 2005. The largest fines, which were settled and totaled just more than $10,000, came in May 2011, for repeatedly failing to meet requirements for excavation and for protective systems.
Martin said the incident stemmed from a hole in the ground made by his company that didn’t have a trench box or ladder inside it. He said he’s always had a good relationship with OSHA representatives.
“It’s an associated risk in industry,” Martin said. “It’s something we certainly never would condone.”
Sorensen defended Martin. “OSHA violations are common for contracting businesses,” he said. “If these were really a big deal, the Democrats would have made the press aware of them before the Lachowicz mailer. It’s a transparent move of retaliation.”
Andrew Ian Dodge, a former Republican from Harpswell who’s running for U.S. Senate as an independent, criticized the party for its focus on Lachowicz’s gaming, rather than her blog posts, which he said merit scrutiny.
He said it’s another example of something he’s long criticized the party for: not encouraging people outside the party’s base to engage in the party.
“Just attack the comments; don’t bring (‘World of Warcraft’) into it,” Dodge said. “They’re assuming that nobody in the GOP is a ‘World of Warcraft’ player” or plays other similar online role-playing games. The game’s developer, Blizzard Entertainment, says “World of Warcraft” had 9.1 million players as of August.
Chris Dixon, a registered Republican from Lewiston and state coordinator for the Maine Tenth Amendment Center, a group advocating for limited government, agreed with Dodge, saying the party’s website should have focused on Lachowicz’s blog comments.
“There’s a lot of really bad stuff in there that nobody seeking public office should be saying — I don’t care what party you’re in,” Dixon said. “You want to be in the Legislature representing people of all backgrounds? You can’t have that.”
But the Republican website, which prominently displays a large picture of Lachowicz’s “World of Warcraft” character, is “one big joke,” Dixon said. “It’s just going to be bad publicity for the (Republican) Party.”
Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at: