AUGUSTA (AP) – Pre-Labor Day politicking for the Maine Legislature usually entails some district door-knocking, perhaps some sign designing and basic strategic plotting for the fall.

But with both major parties anticipating a tight contest for control of the narrowly divided Maine Senate, some timetables have been accelerated.

Early print and radio advertisements are clear signals that the showdown between Democrats, who now hold 18 Senate seats, and Republicans, with one fewer at 17, has begun in earnest.

“I think things are pushing (up) the timing a little bit,” said Ben Grant, the director of the campaign committee for Senate Democrats.

Just days after talks about new state borrowing proposals broke off last month, Senate Democrats took to the airwaves to blame GOP lawmakers.

“Sometimes it’s hard to know who is at fault for the partisan gridlock in Augusta, but last week brought things into focus,” the Democratic ad declared.

“At stake: good paying jobs, clean drinking water, good roads, and land for Maine’s future. … It’s time for the voters to retire these Republican leaders who put partisan politics above the needs all Maine people.”

Republicans, who also hope to spring out of their minority position in the House of Representatives, were paying close attention and responded right away.

“The Democrats with a majority in both legislative bodies failed to address Mainers’ biggest concern, the excessively high tax burden,” Sen. Paul Davis, the Republican Senate leader from Sangerville, said in a statement.

Charging that Democrats were responsible for higher taxes and fees, Davis added: “Sucking that much money out of the economy kills more jobs than any small bond package might create.”

Grant said the timing of the statewide Democratic ad was set by the timeliness of the debate over borrowing.

“We highlighted an important point for us,” he said, conceding an early start for such campaign activity.

“I’ve seen several newsprint ads on the other side,” he added.

Meanwhile, at least one Republican Senate candidate took out a late summer newspaper ad designed to tout his pro-business leanings and challenge those of the Democratic incumbent he is seeking to unseat.

John Linnehan of Ellsworth, running as the GOP nominee against Democrat Dennis Damon of Trenton, cited ratings by the Maine Economic Research Institute, one of numerous organizations that track legislative positions on various issues.

In his Bar Harbor Times ad, Linnehan claimed an “estimated” MERI rating.

Democrats are also looking to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives, where they have effectively held sway for three decades.

Currently, Democrats hold 80 House seats to 65 for the Republicans, according to the House clerk’s office.

There is one Green member and two unenrolled members. Three House seats are vacant.


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