– By ERIC RUSSELL
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree continues to lead Republican Jon Courtney by a wide margin in campaign donations as the race for Maine’s 1st Congressional District seat enters its final weeks.
Pingree’s campaign announced Monday that she raised $167,237 in the third quarter of 2012, compared with $67,263 for Courtney.
The Democratic incumbent has now raised $951,205 for this election, nearly nine times as much as Courtney, who has collected $110,100 in donations.
“We knew when we got into the race that we would never be able to raise the money that my opponent can through her connections with the elite in Washington,” Courtney, a four-term state senator from Springvale, said in a statement from his campaign. “We have embraced old-fashioned, grass-roots campaigning and we will continue to work to return this seat to the people of Main Street.”
Kate Simmons, Pingree’s campaign manager, said Pingree has relied on support from more than 4,000 individual donors.
“Chellie continues to enjoy widespread grass-roots support,” Simmons said. “In this quarter alone, over 800 individuals have contributed. People from all walks of life — teachers, small-business owners, farmers, fishermen, social workers — believe in Chellie and have donated to our campaign.”
Courtney challenged Pingree’s claim. He said 99 percent of his donations have come from Mainers, but many who donated to Pingree’s campaign have out-of-state addresses. She also has benefited from the support of several political action committees, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
“We have raised money one handshake at a time, not through special interests or automated clearinghouses like ‘Act Blue’ (a left-leaning PAC),” Courtney said. “When I review our campaign report, I am proud to personally know most of the hard-working people who have invested in our campaign.”
Most recent polls have shown Pingree leading the race by at least 30 percentage points. The candidates are scheduled to debate for the first time on Thursday at Bowdoin College. Debates also are scheduled for Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
Pingree, who has represented Maine’s 1st District since 2008, is married to financier S. Donald Sussman, a contributor to Democratic and charitable causes and the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.
Her campaign announced Monday that it has bought nearly $200,000 worth of TV time for two commercials that will begin airing this week. The ads will be her first in the campaign.
In one of the commercials, called “Make it in Maine,” Pingree pushes for economic development in the state, specifically expanding shipbuilding jobs and supporting the farming and fishing economies.
In another ad, “Heroes,” Pingree focuses on veterans and making sure they get quality care and benefits.
Last month, Courtney’s campaign purchased $25,000 worth of television advertising. Those ads ran on cable TV, which is less expensive than network TV and draws fewer viewers.
Even with her recent ad buy, Pingree’s campaign had $205,000 in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to her FEC filing. Courtney had about $27,000.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: