Geoff Gratwick broke the law when he removed a pair of beaver traps from a pond near his home in Bangor 17 years ago, a misdemeanor offense for which he paid a $248 fine.

Sen. Geoff Gratwick said he didn’t know he was breaking the law when he took two beaver traps from a pond near his home.

Now the Democratic lawmaker’s Republican challenger for a seat in the Maine Senate is attempting to use the Class E crime to exact political revenge.

James LaBrecque said he is attacking Gratwick in a mailing to 20,000 homes in Senate District 9 as payback for a recent press release from the Maine Democratic Party naming four Republican candidates for the Legislature who have criminal records that include multiple drug dealing convictions and assaults.

“Democrats got top of the page State section last weekend in the (Bangor Daily News) on their criminal background check on Republicans, so I did a little research on my opponent Gratwick and responded with a strike back,” LaBrecque wrote in an email Wednesday to the Press Herald.

Republican James LaBrecque said, “I did a little research on my opponent Gratwick and responded with a strike back.”

“Trafficking drugs is obviously a more serious crime, but I don’t believe we should start parsing out which kind of a Class E criminal conviction is acceptable for a statesman representing the people of Maine in Augusta,” he said.

LaBrecque’s mailer, sporting the term “GUILTY!” invites district voters to “learn more about the sordid details” at a Nov. 1 event at Husson University headlined by Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The governor’s office did not respond to a request seeking to confirm his attendance at the event Wednesday.

Gratwick, a 75-year-old retired rheumatologist, said he removed the two traps from a pond near his home on outer Kenduskeag Avenue because his children at the time were “horrified” as trappers began to harvest the animals from a spring-fed pond that was adjacent to a public road and open to trapping.

He said he didn’t know he was breaking the law when he took the traps, but willingly paid the fine after he was cited for “disturbing traps” by the Maine Warden Service. He said the wardens returned the traps to their owner.

“I must admit, we enjoyed these beavers, we had even given them names,” Gratwick said in an interview Wednesday.

LaBrecque’s mailing says Gratwick “admitted to criminal conduct and (was) convicted of a Class E crime,” but it doesn’t mention the beaver traps. The mailing also points out that Gratwick was fined by the Maine Ethics Commission for a violation of campaign finance law, but it does not go into details.

Commission records show that Gratwick paid a $200 fine after he missed a deadline for reporting a campaign expenditure.

LaBrecque said he wanted voters to know about Gratwick’s history after the Maine Democratic Party last week pointed out that four Republican candidates had criminal backgrounds, including Rep. Jeff Pierce of Dresden, who was convicted of felony and misdemeanor counts of trafficking cocaine and marijuana in the early 1980s. The other Republicans were convicted of assaults, including domestic violence.

A Democratic Party spokesman said the party did not do background checks on its own candidates, so it’s unclear how many of those approximately 175 candidates have committed a criminal offence.

As part of his campaign against Gratwick, LaBrecque, a refrigeration technician and an adviser to LePage on energy policy, also has posted lawn signs describing Gratwick as a “criminal.”

Ironically, in pressing his campaign against Gratwick, La- Brecque himself has run afoul of the ethics commission. He was notified Wednesday that the signs he posted don’t include the proper disclosures required under state campaign finance laws. He was having stickers printed to attach to the signs to correct the omission, which could result in a fine if not corrected.

Gratwick said he was at first upset by LaBrecque’s action but later viewed it differently.

“There are some really important things we could talk about in this election,” Gratwick said. “Whether they be property taxes or the importance of the access to health care or education and what we are going to do to make things better for people of Maine – those are the issues we should be talking about.”

He admits he took the traps all those years ago.

“It’s one of those things in my deep, dark nefarious past,” he said. “What can I say?”

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

[email protected]

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