SKOWHEGAN — Democratic Rep. Jeff McCabe is saying that a campaign flier sent by the Maine Republican Party in support of his opponent Don Skillings and another GOP candidate is misleading.
The mailer, which was sent to voters in Skowhegan, features a spreadsheet of four issues that were the subject of legislation voted on in 2009 and last spring, along with the positions of McCabe and state Sen. Rod Whittemore, who took office in 2010.
McCabe said the flier did not give an accurate description of the legislation, and by doing so misrepresented his opinions.
He said the flier correctly says that he did not support a piece of legislation, L.D. 1746, but that the bill was inaccurately labeled as “welfare reform” on the flier. It is a budgetary bill passed this year that appropriates money for MaineCare along with other changes to the state budget.
“I would not call this bill welfare reform. I’d call it cuts to the the elderly and children,” he said. “If we want to talk about actual welfare reform, its a conversation I am willing to have.”
McCabe said he did not vote for the bill because it makes cuts to the Head Start pre-kindergarten program and prescription drug plans for the elderly.
McCabe faces Skillings for a Legislative seat in House District 85, representing Skowhegan. Whittemore, of Skowhegan, faces Democrat David Schwanke of Norridgewock for a seat in Senate District 26 representing Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Madison and other communities in Somerset County.
Charles Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, who designed the flier, said its intent is to make the point that Whittemore and McCabe do not agree on a number of issues and encourage voters to elect Republicans Whittemore and Skillings as a team.
“The problem is that on every major issue these guys disagree. It would be hard for Whittemore to be effective in office without the support from the Legislature,” he said.
Republican Sen. Richard Rosen, chairman of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the sponsor of L.D. 1746, said that although the bill is not specifically named a welfare reform bill, most of the welfare reform that passed the Legislature during the last session was passed in budget bills.
He also said that there were three budget bills that passed last session and that this one was the most debated.
“Every budget bill passed unanimously out of the committee and passsed the House and Senate by a super majority except for this last one,” he said.
Whittemore said that political action committees often send out mailers and advertisements without having a candidate endorse them. He said he had not seen the mailer before it was sent and that some of the wording was ambiguous.
Skillings also said that he didn’t know the mailer was being sent by the Republican Party, although he did say that on most issues he sees himself aligning with Whittemore.
“For the points listed on the mailer I do align closely with Rod Whittemore and if elected to office I think I would align more with Whittemore than McCabe would,” he said.
Democrats say the mailer is also misleading because the other pieces of legislation it lists were voted on before Whittemore took office in 2010.
The bills listed address tax relief, taxes to health care claims and a bill that recognizes same-sex marriage.
Chairman of the Maine Democratic Party Ben Grant said, “They are trying to set up this dichotomy pitting McCabe against Whittemore, but what they leave out is that Whittemore wasn’t even in office when these issues were voted on.”
McCabe said that the issues presented on the flier are old and that Republicans are cherry-picking issues they used against him two years ago in the 2010 elections.
“These are the same issues the Republicans came after me for the last time I ran,” he said.
Peter Mills, who served the district as a Republican senator at the time the legislation passed, voted the same as McCabe on the tax relief bill and the same-sex marriage bill, according to Roll Call, an annual report on the Maine State Legislature by the Maine Economic Research Center.
“I got a good sense working with Republican Peter Mills and we were able to support these bills at the same time,” said McCabe.
Michelle St. Peter, 38, of Skowhegan said she got one of the fliers in the mail and that although there were some things about it that seemed misleading, it probably won’t change her vote.
“It says they disagree,” she said upon first reading it.
“It does look like a ballot and like they voted on the issues,” she said. “But I would have to do more research on everything — the candidates and the issues — before I decided on who I would vote for.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368