Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows is standing by comments she made last month that the Maine AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed her, following a Maine Republican Party claim that the endorsement statements are false.

Bellows spoke in Waterville Thursday as part of her campaign’s cross-state walking tour of Maine. While rebutting the GOP claim, she also touted the endorsement of the state’s largest labor organization.

Maine Republican Party communications director David Sorenson issued a news release Wednesday saying Bellows’ endorsement comment was false, noting that four AFL-CIO unions have independently endorsed her opponent, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Those unions stayed quiet during an endorsement voice vote at a convention of the Committee on Political Education, and Bellows said Thursday silence implied endorsement.

“No one voted ‘Nay,’ that’s my understanding of it,” she said while crossing the Kennebec County line into Waterville. “They had an opportunity to block or object my endorsement, but they did not.

“Certainly there are unions that endorse Sen. Collins, but they’re also members of the AFL-CIO and they chose not to block the endorsement and I’m pleased by that,” she said.

It was at a July 18 session of the Netroots Money in Politics Candidate Forum in Detroit, Mich., that Bellows, speaking about receiving campaign money from groups affiliated with labor unions, said the AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed her.

“I was on conservative talk radio in Maine and they chided me for accepting PAC money from labor unions,” Bellows said at the Detroit event, which was live-streamed and posted to YouTube. She added, “And I received the unanimous endorsement of the AFL-CIO.”

In the GOP news release Wednesday, Sorenson said, “Democrat lobbyist and U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows has been caught on video making false claims about her support from Maine labor organizations. It’s impossible to receive a ‘unanimous’ endorsement when significant portions of the group have endorsed your opponent.”

Sorensen called on Bellows to “immediately set the record straight and recant her false statement.”

The Maine AFL-CIO website points out that “Maine workers unanimously voted to support” Emily Cain, the Democratic nominee for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. But it doesn’t make that distinction with Bellows.

Lance Dutson, spokesman for Collins, pointed out in an email that answers the question. “The distinction is theirs, not the Maine GOP’s, or ours, or Shenna’s,” Dutson said.

The four AFL-CIO unions that have endorsed Collins are the Maine Professional Fire Fighters, the United Auto Workers Local 3999, the Local S6 Industrial Union of Marine & Shipbuilding Workers of America and the Local S7 International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, which represents thousands of shipyard workers at Bath Iron Works.

According to AFL-CIO spokesman Matt Schlobohm, the members of the AFL-CIO that supported Collins remained quiet during a voice vote at a convention of the Committee on Political Education, the political arm of the labor federation.

“There was clearly two-thirds support for Bellows among convention delegates and the votes they represented,” Schlobohm said. “The other unions (supporting Collins) elected to abstain in the final voice vote.”

The result was a voice vote in which everyone who participated backed the endorsement of Bellows.

“I don’t know why she wouldn’t want to tell the truth by saying she got the endorsement of the state-wide organization without saying it was unanimous,” Sorenson said. “It’s misleading and inaccurate to say she got the unanimous support of the union.”

Bellows walked through Waterville and met with supporters as part of her walk across Maine. She walked more than 20 miles Thursday, traveling from Unity, and spent some time at the Waterville Farmer’s Market before heading to her last stop of the day, in Fairfield.

The previous day, she walked to Unity from Bangor. The walk is part of what the Bellows campaign bills as “Walk Across Maine for Jobs and the Economy,” a 350-mile jaunt from Houlton to Kittery.

According to Bellows schedule, she will walk to Augusta on Saturday.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Kevin Miller contributed to this story.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina

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