WATERVILLE — A mailed campaign flier featuring a picture of a heroin needle and spoon has sparked a debate over Maine’s drug crisis in Senate District 16, where a four-term Democratic state representative is challenging an incumbent Republican senator.

The fliers were sent this week to voters in Senate District 16 — Albion, Benton, Clinton, Fairfield, Unity Township, Waterville and Winslow — by the Maine GOP and were quickly labeled “misleading” and “graphic” by the Maine Democratic Party on Thursday for its display of drug paraphernalia in connection with Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, who is running against Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton.

Beck responded to the ad Thursday by calling it a “total distortion” of his record and also pointed to his work in writing a new law expanding the availability of medication reversing overdoses in fighting the drug crisis.

“I think everyone wants to solve the drug crisis,” Beck said. “This flier almost suggests I support drug dealers or people dying of overdoses, and that’s just over the top.”

The flier says “Vote no on Henry Beck” beneath the image of the heroin needle and spoon, while also saying he “voted against stronger penalties on those who sell drugs and opposed commonsense initiatives that could reduce illegal drugs in our communities.”

That refers to two pieces of legislation that Beck voted against — L.D.1647, a bill that his opponent, Cyrway, sponsored that would have suspended driver’s licenses of those convicted of drug crimes; and L.D.1407, which would have required drug testing for welfare recipients, Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage said.

“We find it strange that Maine Democrats’ response to this mailer is so much stronger than their response to Maine’s heroin crisis,” Savage said in an email Thursday. “The real issue here is that Democrats are more offended by a picture on a mailer than they are by Henry Beck refusing to take action to stop the trafficking of heroin into Maine communities.”

Savage refused to comment on how many fliers were sent in the Senate district.

The race already has drawn financial backing from both political parties, according to data filed with the Maine Ethics Commission. The Maine Republican Party so far has spent $1,700 opposing Beck and $9,800 supporting Cyrway, for $11,500 in total spending on the race; while the Maine Democratic Party has spent more than $9,000 supporting Beck and $5,600 opposing Cyrway, for $14,600 in total spending.

The flier also generated a response from Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, a former Democratic state lawmaker who said in a Thursday news release from the state party that “this election season has unfortunately brought in attacks that have no connection to the truth.”

“I want to set the record straight: Henry Beck has worked in my office and is a reliable partner to law enforcement and is committed to combating the drug crisis,” Maloney said in the release.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett also referenced the law written by Beck, L.D.140, in condemning the flier.

“Five Mainers die every week from the opioid epidemic, and Henry Beck is fighting every day to do something about it,” Bartlett said in the release. “Henry wrote a law that expanded access to Narcan for family members of those at risk of overdose — a bill that his opponent Scott Cyrway voted against.”

The flip side of the flier against Beck credits Cyrway for authoring the driver’s license bill and another to double the prison sentence for out-of-state heroin traffickers; and supporting legislation to hire additional drug agents.

In an interview Thursday, Cyrway said he hadn’t seen the flier and doesn’t support negative campaign ads. Like Beck, he said the two differ on their approach to solving the state’s drug crisis.

Cyrway, who is on a leave of absence as deputy sheriff at the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office after having worked there for 29 years, said he opposes the use of Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. Cyrway said he thought it was irresponsible for doctors to prescribe such drugs to potential overdose victims and their families. Beck’s law expands access to drugs such as Narcan, while Cyrway said the drug was a deterrent to addicts seeking treatment.

“This is just enabling drug addicts,” Cyrway said. “It’s not getting them treatment. It’s not getting them what they need.”

Beck said he didn’t agree with the driver’s license bill but, like Cyrway, voted to hire additional drug agents. He also said that resources spent drug-testing welfare recipients could be better spent on agents, prosecution and treatment.

“I think even people who are convicted of drug crimes, so long as a car wasn’t involved, should be able to keep their licenses so they can drive to work,” Beck said. “These Republican attacks are just over the top. I think overdose medication will save more lives than suspending someone’s license for marijuana.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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