LEWISTON – The race for Lewiston’s Senate District 17 got hotter Monday as a late-campaign mailing by candidate Paul Madore angered his Democratic primary opponent, incumbent Peggy Rotundo, and her supporters.

Those supporters called a press conference in front of Lewiston City Hall Monday to respond to what they termed “lies left at the door” and “twisted facts” that arrived late last week.

Watching from across the street in his parked pickup, Madore defended his ads saying they’re accurate. He also said his ads were not intended to arrive so late.

“It wasn’t a last-minute … thing,” Madore said, complaining that Rotundo supporters are now “crying foul … in the 11th hour.” He said their complaints were “sour grapes.”

The controversy began when Madore, a former Republican running in Tuesday’s primary election as a Democrat, sent out campaign ads that appeared on doorsteps and in mailboxes beginning Thursday, the majority arriving on Saturday.

Madore’s ads speared Rotundo, blaming her for everything from rising gas prices to big state spending to cutting eye care for seniors.

Supporters at the press conference included Dana Graham, president of the Maine State Employees Association, several Democrat legislators and Lewiston resident Jay Calnan, a retired state worker who said he’s a registered Republican. Several speakers said they were “outraged” at the negative ads circulated in Lewiston.

“In the past week the opponent has sent out cards that are untruthful to what Senator Rotundo has done in the past four years,” said Rep. Richard Mailhot, D-Lewiston. “This is not right. These were lies left at the door that she was against labor, against education. Who would think that Senator Rotundo would ever be against education after spending … four years as chairman of the Lewiston School Committee?” Mailhot said.

They also criticized another ad delivered to homes Saturday from Republican candidate Stavros Mendros. That ad used former state Sen. Georgette Berube’s name and photo without her knowledge, and graded Rotundo, Madore, Mendros and Berube on 10 issues. Berube is not running for any office. In the Mendros ad, Berube and Mendros received perfect scores of 100; Madore a score of 80; Rotundo a score of 10.

Rotundo said the ads were “outrageous” and that she was “saddened” by them, that Lewiston voters deserve better. “The timing of this, unfortunately, is a technique used to keep people from responding. It goes out the last weekend with no recourse to set the record straight.”

Madore said he stood by his ads.

What he said in the ads about Rotundo’s record “is upsetting, but I wouldn’t say they are lies,” Madore said. “I’m well documented. I stand behind what I put into print.”

Madore said he sent out two mailers through the mail. The first attacked Rotundo’s record. That should have hit doorsteps on Thursday instead of Saturday, he said. The second ad was about Madore and his vision. His intention was for the second ad to follow the first, so voters would understand “that my campaign isn’t about criticism.”

Madore said a snafu by the postal service meant most voters received the ads in reverse order. He emphasized it wasn’t intentional.

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