New GOP television ad targets Golden's positions — and tattoo

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A new television advertisement by a GOP-aligned Super PAC called the Congressional Leadership Fund calls attention to Democratic challenger Jared Golden’s tattoos.

As it attacks his record, the commercial includes a closeup of a tattoo on his right arm and ends with a shot of a man’s back emblazoned with a large tattoo-like image headlined “Liberal Jared Golden” and accompanied by ink swirls all around.

Golden, a Democrat and a state representative from Lewiston, is angling to unseat two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the increasingly vicious battle for control of Maine’s hardscrabble 2nd District.

The ad, which began airing Monday, questions Golden’s opposition to the $1.9 trillion federal tax cut pushed through by Republicans and assails him for voting against a 2016 bill in Augusta that limited the use of welfare cash.

“No responsible media outlet should run the spot because it’s bull—-,” Bobby Reynolds, Golden’s communications director, said Monday.

Golden dismissed it Monday as “another false attack by Bruce Poliquin and his boss Paul Ryan,” the Wisconsin Republican who serves as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The ad is just one more indication that the traditional Labor Day start for the battle of the airwaves has been tossed out the window as candidates and their supporters try to get an early start in the fight to see if Poliquin, a Republican, can hang on to a vulnerable seat.

While outside groups have been running ads on television, radio and online for the past year, the campaigns themselves held their fire until Poliquin issued an Aug. 10 ad that called Golden “too radical” and “too risky,” the first negative spot either of them aired about the other.

Golden soon responded with one that showed him on a lobster boat, pushing traps overboard. Standing on the deck, Golden said, “It’s time for Maine to show Washington what needs to go overboard” — partisan politics, special interests and “career politicians like Bruce Poliquin.”

“We have to throw out what’s bad with Washington and get something good,” Golden concluded. Then he held up a lobster.

Golden’s ad shows one large tattoo on his right arm. Among the images inked on his skin are a sun, a moon, a tree, a Celtic cross and a “devil dog” that represents his unit in the Marines, where he served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Though it’s hard to find solid statistics, one survey found that two out of five American adults have a tattoo. Others pin the figure at closer to one in five.

There doesn’t seem to be any academic research about politics and tattoos, but a 2016 study of tattoos in the workplace for the Journal of Retail and Consumer Services found that consumers “have a negative reaction to body art.”

Perhaps as a consequence, there aren’t many politicians who have fessed up about having a tattoo. The Huffington Post only found a few who would talk about them when it searched Capitol Hill in 2012.

But there are some political leaders have had noticeable tattoos, including Canadian leader Justin Trudeau, who has talked about a raven pictured on his left arm.

While the candidates toss barbs back and forth, much of the ad war will continue to be fueled by outside groups that are barred by law from coordinating their efforts with a campaign.

America First Action, for example, is a Super PAC that promotes President Donald Trump. It announced last week it planned to pump $1 million into the 2nd District race, one of 10 House races nationally that it is focusing on.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is tied to the GOP’s House leadership, has reserved millions in television advertising time in Maine through the Nov. 6 election and so, too, has the House Majority PAC, which promotes Democrats.

Brendan Conley, spokesman for Poliquin’s campaign, said the incumbent has been getting hit by costly ads from Democrats for more than a year.

Conley said Sunday that he can’t comment on the Congressional Leadership Fund’s new ad because he hasn’t seen it. 

Golden has made no secret of his opposition to the controversial tax cut approved by Republicans shortly before Christmas. It mostly benefits corporations and the wealthy, but many ordinary families will also see a reduction in their tax bills, until their portion of the tax cut expires in 2026. The break for companies is permanent.

“In the Maine Legislature,” Golden said, “I voted to lower the Maine income tax for middle-class families and that’s a verifiable fact.”

The other issue mentioned in the ad is Golden’s opposition to a bill pushed through in 2016 by state Sen. Nate Libby, another Lewiston Democrat, that changed the state’s welfare laws.

The bill prohibited welfare recipients from using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to purchase tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, tattoos and other items. Conley said Golden’s vote against it means he thinks it’s “a good idea” to let welfare dollars be spent on such items.

Libby said at the time that his measure “seeks to strike the right balance between preserving assistance when your neighbors or our families fall on hard times, and ensuring the safety net is transparent and accountable.”

But Golden, one of 33 state House members to vote against it, said the restrictions were unnecessary because federal rules already banned the use of the welfare cash for such items.

“I fully oppose any misuse of these funds but, unlike Bruce Poliquin, I don’t want to throw kids off of food stamps,” Golden said.

Conley said, though, that Golden “should explain why he thinks it’s a good idea to allow welfare dollars to be spent on tobacco, liquor, gambling, tattoos, or bail money for jail.”

Poliquin pushed for a change in federal food assistance that would require able-bodied adults to work unless they have children under the age of six — a change from existing law that doesn’t include an age limit.

In the farm bill that may include the work provisions after a joint committee reconciles the versions adopted by the House and Senate, “there are zero changes for anyone who is a child, elderly, disabled, pregnant, or the parent of a child who is too young for public school,” Conley said.

Reynolds said that “to go from exempting parents raising a minor child to only exempting parents with a child under age 6 is a big shift. The last I checked, we don’t end childhood at age 6.”

 Two years ago, when Poliquin defeated Emily Cain by a wide margin to win a second term, more than $15 million was spent on the race. This year’s tally is likely to be at least as big as both parties clash over which will wind up in charge of the House next year.

In addition to Golden and Poliquin, there are two independents in the race, Tiffany Bond of Portland and Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor. Neither is expected to air any ads.

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A screenshot from a new television commercial zinging Democratic congressional hopeful Jared Golden that focuses attention on his tattoos.

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