Republican congressional hopeful Adrienne Bennett said Friday that former state Sen. Eric Brakey is “putting politics before our most vulnerable” by sending supporters out to knock on doors for his campaign.

Adrienne Bennett, left, Eric Brakey, center, and Dale Crafts. File photos

With a deadly coronavirus spreading through the state, Bennett called Brakey’s move in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District “irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst. Without knowing it, these politically eager activists could be putting the lives of vulnerable Mainers in jeopardy.”

Bennett, a Bangor resident who was a press secretary for former Gov. Paul LePage, called on Brakey to cease the door-to-door campaigning immediately because “no candidate or campaign should put their own political ambitions ahead of the safety of our friends and family members who may be vulnerable to this disease.”

Brakey’s communications director, David Boyer, responded Friday by pointing out that despite the public health threat “the post office is still delivering the mail, UPS is still delivering packages and the Brakey campaign is still delivering the message of a Free Maine and a Free America — in accordance with all recommended guidelines and best practices.”

“I’ve never had to Lysol campaign literature but here we are,” Boyer said, adding that those going to doors “are taking additional precautions to make sure we are following federal and state suggestions.”

“That said, we are emphasizing phones since everyone is home and it’s faster,” Boyer added.

After seeing Brakey’s response to her, Bennett said, “It’s shocking and frankly appalling that Eric would deliberately put the elderly and the sick at risk at a time like this.”

Bennett, Brakey and former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon are competing in a June 9 GOP primary for the right to take on first-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat who is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. House because his district leans Republican.

Crafts said Friday that with six children and 14 grandchildren, he believes “this is a time that should be focused on our families’ health and safety. While it has become harder to reach voters during this time, our focus should be on family and our community first.”

“My campaign is utilizing various digital means to communicate with voters, and I too would encourage Eric and his team to put Maine families first during this time,” Crafts said.

Bennett took issue with Brakey on social media Thursday, claiming she had been “contacted by multiple voters” in the district “who are alarmed by inappropriate behavior” by Brakey’s campaign.

She said that despite orders from public health experts about the need for social distancing and the vulnerability of older Americans to the new virus, Brakey’s supporters going door-to-door were coming “in close contact with Mainers who have made the responsible decision to quarantine themselves in their homes, including the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions that are most susceptible to coronavirus.”

Bennett said her campaign “will not be participating in gatherings of 10 people or more and we will not be engaging in door-to-door campaign activities. Public safety is more important than politics or any individual campaign.”

Last week, Brakey’s campaign said it had already knocked on more than 30,000 doors across the sprawling and largely rural district. It said that in the past 90 days of the race, it planned to put more emphasis on phone calls and digital efforts to reach voters.

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