AUGUSTA (AP) – Legislative candidates using Clean Election funds won 10 out of 14 times in those primary races for open seats in which a Clean Election candidate competed against a privately funded office-seeker, according to the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund.

Of all 308 Clean Election candidates, 91 percent – 280 – won on Election Day, the advocacy group said.

The group said participation in the Clean Election program, in which candidates receive public financing and agree to spending limits, was up in both Senate and House races.

In the Senate, 63 of 81 candidates – 78 percent – were Clean Election candidates, compared to 61 percent in 2002; in the House, 70 percent of all candidates – 245 out of 348 – participated in the optional public financing program, compared to 52 percent in 2002, the organization said.

Overall, in Maine’s 2004 primary elections, 308 of the 429 candidates – 72 percent – used the Clean Election system – an increase from 54 percent in 2002.

“The Clean Election Act is having the impact the voters wanted when they passed it in 1996,” said Arn Pearson of the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund in a statement accompanying the group’s analysis.

“Voters wanted to have more and better choices of candidates. The increased number of candidates alone is an indication that the voters are getting more democracy. The fact that so many candidates are not taking money from special interests is helping to restore public confidence and integrity of our democracy,” Pearson said.

According to the advocacy group, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to sign up for public financing.

The group said 169 of 203 Democrats were Clean Election candidates. That level of 83 percent was up from 65 percent in 2002, according to the analysis.

Out of 203 Republicans, 62 percent – 125 – participated in the Clean Election program – up from 42 percent in 2002, the group’s report said.

Maine voters approved the campaign finance measure in 1996. The Maine Clean Election Act was first implemented for legislative candidates in 2000.

Nonparticipating candidates may raise and spend money without limitation.

If a participating candidate is outspent by a candidate raising private funds, matching money becomes available.

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