Spat with GOP primary foe highlights Holbrook’s struggles in Maine’s 1st District race

Mark Holbrook, center, and Ande Smith participate in an MPBN debate in June with Jennifer Rooks. MPBN photo

Mark Holbrook, center, and Ande Smith participate in an MPBN debate in June with Jennifer Rooks. MPBN photo

The primary election for the 1st Congressional District seat came and went months ago but animosity between the two Republican candidates continues.

Mark Holbrook of Brunswick walked away with the nomination after he bested Ande Smith of North Yarmouth by just 57 votes. Animosity between Holbrook and Smith began to show late in the primary campaign when Holbrook posted an article on his website that attacked Smith’s family structure. After a debate in June, Holbrook refused to shake Smith’s hand on live television.

With the general election looming and Holbrook facing long odds against Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, jabs between the two candidates continued on Thursday.

In a Facebook post and in an article on his campaign website, Smith wrote that Holbrook had requested help with his campaign.

“I would normally let his email speak for itself,” wrote Smith. “Regretfully, rather than build a bridge, he precedes his ask by accusing me of spreading half-truths about the fact he has never contacted me since the recount. This accusation is utterly false.”

Holbrook’s message to Smith was included in Smith’s letter. Here’s the relevant passage.

“It has come to my attention that you claim I have not asked you for help and that is both true and not true. I did try to speak with you after the recount but you said “no”. I included a gentle gesture suggesting future cooperation on our FaceBook page “…and Mr. Smith has graciously offered his help going forward” and we were told that you were furious about it and wanted it taken off the page. Yesterday I was told you haven’t offered any support because I haven’t asked you for help. … I’m asking you and any member of your former team to get involved in the ground game because it’s the best way to counter the obvious advantages Pingree has. A solid showing of Republican unity and support for the entire ticket also emphasizes and answers the desire for real change in Maine and across America.”

Smith took issue with Holbrook’s assertions.

“Why he would say these things immediately before asking for my help and yours is quite beyond me,” wrote Smith. “It does nothing to build our party unity in these difficult times. Despite it, I have nonetheless provided you his email request so you might consider it, which I hope you do.”

Holbrook had little to say about the exchange on Friday when contacted by the Bangor Daily News, other than “there’s probably a lot more than what you read in that message” at play in his relationship with Smith.

“The primary is over and my opponent is Chellie Pingree,” he said. “Ronald Reagan said the 11th commandment was never trash another Republican and I adhere to that.”

Smith could not be reached for comment on Friday. Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said his party is united against Pingree. 

“Her liberal voting record is out of step with most Mainers’ views,” he said in a written statement. “It’s time for a change and we stand behind our nominee, Mark Holbrook.”

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.