AUGUSTA — The Maine Democratic Party released documents Friday highlighting the criminal records of four Republican candidates for the Legislature, including one sitting lawmaker seeking re-election with a 25-year record of guilty pleas and convictions for drug trafficking and other offenses.

One of the other candidates is no longer running for a seat in Belfast and another, who was previously asked by Republican leadership to withdraw, remains on the ballot in South Portland but has not been actively campaigning. The two have not formally withdrawn their candidacies, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

It’s unclear if any of the approximately 175 Democratic candidates for the Legislature have criminal records. Democratic Party spokesman Chris Glynn said the party did not do background checks on Democratic candidates.

“We generally trust our candidates to be adult enough to know if they have something in their background they should consider before running for office,” he said.

Criminal histories are maintained by the State Bureau of Identification and managed for public access by a third-party vendor, InforME. The records are available to anyone upon payment of a $21-to-$31 fee to InforME for each record, and submission of the full name and date of birth of the person of interest.

Glynn said Democrats did not do background checks on all Republican candidates but limited the checks to candidates whose records were brought to their attention.

The Maine Republican Party didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday.

DRESDEN LAWMAKER

The one incumbent Republican candidate named by Democrats, Rep. Jeffrey K. Pierce of Dresden, is seeking his third term. He was convicted or pleaded guilty to one felony count and one misdemeanor count of drug trafficking, among multiple offenses between 1981 and 2006.

Pierce, 56, is the leading House Republican on the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, and he also sits on the Marine Resources Committee. He is running for a leadership position in the House, operates a political action committee that has raised nearly $40,000 and donated to the campaign of at least one of the other candidates who has a criminal record.

According to a State Bureau of Identification background check released by Democrats, Pierce has also been convicted of operating under the influence twice, charged twice with assault and has been found guilty twice for drug possession. The drug trafficking convictions are the result of Pierce selling cocaine and marijuana to an undercover state trooper in 1983. The most recent assault charge was from 14 years ago and was downgraded in an apparent plea agreement to disorderly conduct, which Pierce pleaded guilty to in 2004.

Because of the felony drug conviction, Pierce is prohibited from ever owning or possessing a gun, the records show.

Pierce, in a phone interview Friday, questioned the timing of the release by Democrats less than three weeks before the election. He questioned why Democrats didn’t release the documents in 2014, when he first ran as a challenger and unseated an incumbent Democrat.

“I’ve never hid from my past,” Pierce said. “I’m not proud of it but I am proud of the things I have done since then. I’ve run a successful construction business for longer than I was alive at the time this took place and have dedicated myself to community service and my family. I was a young, impressionable kid, I made some dumb mistakes, I was even a registered Democrat at the time, but I’ve paid my debt to society and never tried to hide from my past.”

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He said the most recent, 2004 incident involved someone who was trespassing on his property and stealing materials from him and that he was not convicted of assault but did plead guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.

“I honestly don’t see how this is a story now,” Pierce said. “You have to ask yourself if you are tearing somebody else down just to make yourself somehow feel better. Is that any good?”

CONTROL OF LEGISLATURE

Maine law does not prohibit someone with a criminal record from voting or running for office. To run for the Legislature in Maine, a candidate needs to be at least 21 years old, a resident of the state for at least one year and a resident of the district he or she intends to represent.

The release of the records by Democrats comes as the state’s two major parties are battling for control of a now narrowly divided Legislature, where Republicans control the Senate by one seat in the 35-seat upper chamber, while Democrats have less than a 10-seat advantage in the 151-seat House. Meanwhile, the four-way race for the governor’s office also appears to be locked in a near dead heat, although there has been limited polling on the race.

Both the governor’s race and the State House races have seen unprecedented amounts of money flowing into Maine from outside groups seeking to influence voters here. By mid-September, outside spending on the candidates running for the Legislature had exceeded $350,000 – an amount unmatched by either of the last two election cycles in 2014 and 2016.

Pierce’s Common Sense for ME Leadership PAC has contributed to the campaign of William Faulkingham, who is running for House District 136 in Washington and Hancock counties.

According to Democrats, Faulkingham has also been convicted of assault and in 2003 he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and criminal mischief following another assault charge. According to court records, Faulkingham “repeatedly holler(ed) (expletive) you, gave an obscene gesture, to wit, the finger, and threw a bucket of human excrement at or on” individuals identified as the victims of the crime, Democrats said.

“People make mistakes and deserve second chances, but such outrageous conduct should give voters cause for concern,” said Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “His actions were just plain wrong.”

Bartlett assailed Pierce for his votes against legislation to help victims of Maine’s opioid crisis.

“It is unconscionable that someone convicted of a drug trafficking felony, who is now serving in the Maine House of Representatives, voted against a bipartisan bill to provide drug treatment,” Bartlett said. “You can’t make this up.”

The release from Democrats also singled out two other Republican candidates who have either been charged or convicted of crimes. Christopher Hoy is on the ballot for House District 33, which includes parts of South Portland, and Bevelyn Beatty is on the ballot for House District 97, which includes Belfast, Northport and Waldo.

Beatty was convicted of assault for an incident in a Bangor nightclub, while Hoy has been convicted of domestic violence assault, among other crimes. Hoy has said he is not actively campaigning for the office but was a placeholder candidate for the party. However, he remains on the ballot. Beatty told the Republican Journal she is no longer seeking the seat but dropped out of the race after ballots had been printed.

Glynn, the Democratic Party spokesman, said the party doesn’t expect candidates to have “spotless” records, but the convictions were disturbing. “It’s not that these guys made one mistake,” he said. “There’s a pattern here and we think voters should know about that.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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