Raye, Poliquin attack each other on deadline day for campaign finance reports

Another campaign finance filing deadline for congressional candidates came and went on Friday, but perhaps more noteworthy than the totals (which are detailed below) were barbs traded between the two Republican candidates trying to win the primary for the open 2nd Congressional District seat.

Former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry and former state treasurer Bruce Poliquin of Oakland are headed for what looks like a spirited primary battle, judging by their reactions to each other’s fundraising totals Friday evening.

Raye announced Friday that he raised $102,604 in the final three months of last year, $192,000 so far in the campaign and as of the beginning of this year, had more than $154,000 on hand.

Poliquin told reporters earlier this month that he has gathered about $370,000 in the campaign, including $148,000 in the final quarter of 2013, and had $300,000 cash on hand — almost twice as much as Raye. However, about $100,000 of that total was contributed by Poliquin himself.

The Raye campaign took aim at Poliquin in a press release Friday evening, which triggered an angry response from the Poliquin campaign a couple hours later.

“While his opponent has already poured more than $100,000 of his own wealth into his campaign, the vast majority of Kevin’s contributions continue to come from hard-working Mainers in every county of the 2nd District,” said Mike Leavitt spokesman for the Raye campaign. The statement labeled Poliquin a former Wall Street hedge fund manager who dipped heavily into his personal bank account for unsuccessful primary bids in the 2010 gubernatorial and 2012 U.S. Senate elections.

“We fully expect his primary opponent will outspend us as he has in his previous runs, but Kevin will have the resources to win,” said Leavitt.

Matt Hutson, a spokesman for Poliquin, called that an “over-the-top attack,” though his written statement also pulled no punches.

“What we have learned from Raye’s press release and numbers today is that he is unprepared to win the general election this fall,” said Hutson. “Not only does the Raye campaign have dramatically less money left in its accounts from donors, but compared to all funds on hand, he significantly trails the Poliquin campaign. After a lifetime working in politics, it is clear from his release that Kevin Raye cannot escape the ways of Washington, where political attacks push out substance.”

Those are strong words between members of the same political party, especially with the primary still months away, but both have well-established ambitions to serve in Congress. Raye was the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2002 and 2012 and lost both times to Michaud. Poliquin came in second in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary to Charlie Summers, who eventually lost to Angus King.

On the Democratic side of the 2nd Congressional District ticket, the candidates are Maine Senators Emily Cain of Orono and Troy Jackson of Allagash, as well as U.S. Navy officer Alden Smith of Sangerville.

Cain previously reported that she has raised more than $300,000 in the race, including $158,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, and had about $169,000 cash banked at the end of the year. According to Federal Election Commission filings, that easily tops both Jackson and Smith.

Jackson reported on Friday that he raised $66,400 in the fourth quarter for a total of $137,000 for the campaign. After expenditures, Jackson had about $50,000 cash on hand. Alan Lindquist, a financial consultant for Jackson’s campaign, said in a written statement that Jackson is meeting his fundraising goals.

“As the working class candidate for Congress, Troy’s support is coming from other middle and working class people in the 2nd District who stretch their budgets to express their support through small, meaningful contributions,” said Lindquist.

Smith reported raising about $2,750 in his campaign to date plus a $60,000 personal loan he has made to his own campaign. Like Jackson, he reported about $50,000 cash on hand. Pouring that amount of personal money into his campaign shows that Smith is serious about his candidacy, though he has a lot of catching up to do in both fundraising and increasing his name recognition.

Blaine Richardson, who switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent for the 2nd Congressional District race, has raised about $4,200 and reported $459 cash on hand at the end of the filing period.

In the race for the 1st Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, faces one declared opponent so far, Republican Isaac Misiuk of Gorham.

Pingree reported almost $67,000 in contributions in the final quarter of 2013 and $247,000 in cash on hand. That compares to $1,180 raised by Misiuk, who had about $400 cash on hand.

Collins way ahead in cash on hand but Bellows optimistic

Another candidate who has some catching up to do is Democrat Shenna Bellows, a political newcomer who is trying to unseat longtime Republican Sen. Susan Collins for a statewide U.S. Senate seat.

Collins reported Friday that she ended last year with more than $3 million banked for her 2014 re-election bid, more than nine times what Bellows was able to gather by the end of the year. The Collins campaign announced Friday that she has raised more than $3.4 million for the 2014 election, including nearly $315,000 in the final three months of 2013.

Collins’ vast cash advantage is due to a few obvious facts: Collins has been in office since 1997 and Bellows, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, has never held an elected office. Collins’ fundraising has been ongoing for years; Bellows’ started when she entered the race in October.

Sam Ladd, Collins’ finance chairman, said the obvious in a Friday afternoon statement from the campaign.

“I am confident that we will have the resources necessary to wage a vigorous campaign,” said Ladd. “Susan continues to enjoy widespread support from all across the state, and she looks forward to being on the campaign trail later this year.”

But it’s not over until it’s over and in the case of Maine’s 2014 U.S. Senate race, it’s barely begun. Bellows told State & Capitol earlier this month that she gathered $332,241 in less than three months – outpacing Collins over that same time period – and hopes to raise $3 million to spend on her campaign.

Despite the strong start, Bellows faces an uphill battle when it comes to the money, for sure. Even her stated $3 million goal pales in comparison to the $4 million and $8 million Collins spent on her Senate campaigns in 2002 and 2008, respectively.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.