ROCKLAND — The controversial attack ad against Democratic state Rep. Anne “Pinny” Beebe-Center by a group headed by Republican Rep. Paula Sutton of Warren continues to reverberate as Election Day nears.

In addition to the newspaper ad, a mailing was received this week by some residents in Rockland and Owls Head with the same content. The ad and mailing claim that Beebe-Center is unwilling to protect young girls from abuse because she voted against a proposed state law specifically banning female genital mutilation. The ad and mailing show a razor blade with a baby screaming and a woman wearing attire often worn by women from Somalia.

State law already prohibits the procedure in Maine. There have been no documented cases of the procedure occurring in Maine. Donald Clark with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maine said this week that female genital mutilation is a federal crime. He said the federal government has not prosecuted anyone in Maine for the offense.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said earlier this year that the state can already prosecute offenders under existing laws, according to a March article in the Sun Journal of Lewiston. Noted defense attorney Walter Mckee of Augusta also said there was no need for the additional law, according to that article. At a public hearing in May 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Maine’s Women Lobby urged defeat of the proposal. District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who represents Kennebec and Somerset County, said parts of the legislation could have clarified the issue but voiced concern about other parts of that bill.

Sutton, however, continues to defend the newspaper ad paid for by her political action committee.

Beebe-Center’s challenger for the Maine House District 93 seat – Republican Maynard Stanley Jr. of Owls Head – said Saturday he had nothing to do with the ad or mailings but didn’t object to their content.

“It was a bit dramatic but Beebe-Center, Jared Golden and Owen Casas voted four times against the bill,” Stanley said.

When asked whether he agreed with the ad and mailing’s contention that Beebe-Center is unwilling to protect young women from abuse, Stanley would only say he questioned why Beebe-Center voted against the bill. He said he would have voted for the bill.

Beebe-Center said when she saw the ad she immediately noticed the razor blade first and then the baby. She then saw her name.

“My heart sank,” Beebe-Center said. “I know visual images are much more powerful than words.”

The Rockland Democrat said she voted against the bill because it is already illegal in Maine to perform such a procedure. She said testimony at Legislative hearings showed that the people who come to Maine from countries where this “horrific” procedure is performed, came here to get away from that type of behavior.

“This bill was not meant to protect anyone but to smear a population,” Beebe-Center said.

Opponents of the bill argued that this was an effort to stigmatize the Muslim population in Maine by suggesting that this is a practice they follow here.

Beebe-Center said her house received one of the mailings late this week with the graphic visuals and text criticizing her.

The full-page advertisement that appeared in The Courier-Gazette was paid for by the Women’s Leadership Fund PAC. The principals of that PAC are Sutton; Rep. Deborah Sanderson, a Chelsea Republican; and its treasurer, Robert Carter Jr. of Standish, according to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

The top donors to Sutton’s PAC include the Maine Republican Party; RAI Services Co., which is affiliated with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine; Eastern Horizons LLC, which is the company owned by Sutton and her husband, Kerin Resch; the Revive Home Town Maine PAC, which is led by Republican Rep. Joel Stetkis of Canaan; and the Maine Trade Association.

Sutton declined to comment Saturday on why she paid for an against Beebe-Center. Sutton and Beebe-Center are in different legislative districts. Both are running for re-election.

While Sutton’s PAC paid for the newspaper ad, she said her PAC did not pay for the mailing. The mailing says it was paid for by the Building the Maine House PAC. One of the top donors to that PAC is Sutton’s PAC, according to the mailing.

The advertisement and mailing have been met with widespread condemnation.

“I just received this same disgusting piece of garbage in the mail. Paula Sutton, how could you do this?” said Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger. “Pinny is one of the finest people I know, working tirelessly getting the Homeless Shelter back open, interim director of New Hope for Women, the list goes on. What have you done besides vote to decrease children’s funding, vote to decrease mental health services, vote to decrease child protective services and vote against Medicaid expansion. What is wrong with you? Such a vicious unethical act. May you know defeat and Pinny victory on Tuesday.”

The newspaper issued an apology the day following the publication of the ad.

“We failed to live up to the standards that the community has a right to expect from us. Rest assured that, seeing the flaws in our tracking systems, we have established new internal policies to ensure nothing like this happens again,” the company’s publisher Bryan Gess and vice president for sales and marketing John Viehman said in the formal apology.

Sutton sent a page from what she says were 2016 Maine Care claims that include a total of $1,000 for diagnoses of female genital mutilations. The page does not offer additional details.

Beebe-Center said that other procedures are lumped into that category and reiterated there is no evidence female genital mutilation is occurring in Maine.

Beebe-Center said that when the bill was introduced at the beginning of the year, the supporters knew it would not pass but wanted to create an issue for the midterm elections.

“This was the most racist bill to come before us,” she said.

The mailings were also sent out in 12 other legislative races with only the name of the legislator changed from the Beebe-Center ad, she said.


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