Maine Democrats apologize for doctored photo of Air Force veteran in attack mailer

Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine Democratic Party is apologizing to a Republican House candidate for a mailer in which “U.S. Air Force Veteran” was removed from the candidate’s hat with photo editing tools.

First-term Republican Rep. Brian Hobart of Bowdoinham is running for re-election against Democrat Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, who formerly held the seat before being term-limited out of office in 2014.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett apologized for the mailer Wednesday in a tweet that responded to the Maine College Republicans, who called the photoshopped mailer “absolutely despicable.”

“We were unaware that image was photoshopped,” tweeted Bartlett. “I apologize and agree this is unacceptable.”

Here’s the tweet exchange, which includes before and after photos of the altered hat:

Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Katie Baker said that though the mailer, prepared by a vendor, was approved by party officials, they hadn’t seen the original photo.

“The editing of the photo was disrespectful and we apologize to Mr. Hobart and all Maine veterans,” she wrote in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News.

The only independent expenditure against Hobart was about $1,200 on Oct. 9 by the Maine Democratic Party, according to Maine Ethics Commission campaign finance data.

“Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for airbrushing out the Air Force Veteran logo on Rep. Brian Hobart’s hat,” said Maine Republican Party spokeswoman Nina McLaughlin. “The simple fact that they gave no thought to this in their attack on Rep. Hobart exposes a disturbing lack of respect for his service and the service of tens of thousands of Maine people.”

Hobart said the mailer was first shown to him Wednesday afternoon by a neighbor.

“I saw it right away because I recognized the picture. They must have taken it off my Facebook,” said Hobart, a non-combat veteran who served for four years as a crash rescue fireman during the Vietnam War era. “It really hurt. I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t believe they had done that.”

Hobart said Bartlett called him this morning to apologize, which Hobart said he accepted.

“It makes a big difference that they manned up and called me,” said Hobart. “I take my veteran’s status very seriously.”

Here’s Brian’s soundtrack.

According to campaign finance reports, the vendor in question is CD2 Consulting.  — Christopher Cousins

Who won the presidential debate? It depends on who you ask.

A CNN/ORC poll of of 547 registered voters after last night’s final presidential debate found that voters reacted more favorably to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s performance over Republican Donald Trump by a 13-point margin.

The same poll found Clinton victorious in the previous two debates as well, though Wednesday’s was closer. Clinton garnered 52 percent of the respondents’ votes last night, compared with 62 percent after the first debate and 57 percent after the second.

An AOL News flash poll released at 1 a.m. today showed the opposite result. Approximately 57 percent of participants in that poll chose Trump. The tracking poll found Clinton leading early in the debate but favorability for Trump surged as he began to unload barbs at Clinton.

What’s the moral of this story? Watch the debate instead of reading the polls and decide for yourself. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • New ad blitz: The Stand Up For Students campaign, which is advocating in favor of Question 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot, has released a new television ad statewide that focuses on what it called the unfairness of Maine’s income tax code. You can view the ad by clicking here. Question 2 seeks to place a 3 percent surtax on income above $200,000 and earmark the revenue — estimated to be some $157 million a year — for public schools. Opponents have argued that the higher tax rate would drive entrepreneurs and physicians away from the state. They also say that state government’s fiscal management system would make it impossible to guarantee that the added revenue would make it to classrooms.
  • Examining out-of-state money in campaign: The Maine Ethics Commission is convening today in Augusta with a single item on its agenda: A request by the Maine Republican Party that the commission investigate a California-based organization that has funnelled $50,000 to the Maine-based Progressive Maine PAC in favor of Democratic Maine Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford. The PAC intends the money to be used to organize canvassers for Fulford and two of Maine’s 2016 ballot initiatives.
  • Trump’s autograph: The Maine Republican Party is raffling off 5 campaign signs signed by Donald Trump and two signed copies of the book “The Conservative Case for Trump.” You can enter the raffle for $3 a ticket with a 25-ticket-per-person limit. If you want to do that, click here.

Reading list

One last follow-up on potatoes

If you’re a regular reader of the Daily Brief you’ve read about how confusing it can be for a western Maine boy to purchase 10 pounds of new potatoes in Aroostook County.

On Tuesday I complained here in the Daily Brief that after making an agonizing choice to buy some new russets, I got home and noticed the bag said they were packaged in Avon, Mass. That triggered another response from a Maine Potato Board representative, with whom I am becoming a pen pal. He had good news: The potatoes I bought and ate with my family (they were delicious) were indeed harvested in The County.

Northeast Packaging in Presque Isle prints potato bags for farms all over the northeast. Maine farmers, mostly the small-scale ones, buy some of the bags that were misprinted or surplus.

“You definitely purchased 10 pounds of new russets grown and packaged in Aroostook, not hauled to Avon, Mass., to be hauled back to the county for sale.”

Now there’s some good news. — Christopher Cousins

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.