AUGUSTA (AP) – As the Labor Day weekend arrives and the fall elections draw closer, Maine’s political campaigns are shifting into a more intense phase. But one candidate for governor is hoping for moderation – at least when it comes to campaign signs.

While her rivals headed for paper mills and state fairs to shake hands with voters, independent candidate Barbara Merrill sent a plea to her rivals for a “mutual disarmament agreement” on political signs.

Merrill asked them to agree to restrict their campaign signs to lawns of supporters, and swear off planting them in public rights of way, as is allowed during the last six weeks of the campaign.

“These right-of-way sign wars on corners, intersections, islands and other such places quickly escalate to the point that all the average citizen sees is massive visual pollution,” Merrill wrote to the candidates.

Acknowledging that her idea may be met with skepticism, Merrill told her rivals that “we have nothing to lose and we could demonstrate to the voters that we can act like adults and at the same time advance the state goal of keeping Maine beautiful.”

Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, meanwhile, was hitting the road with a schedule full of paper mill visits, while his rivals headed for the state fairgrounds to shake hands with voters.

Republican nominee Chandler Woodcock teamed up with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Friday at the N.H. Bragg industrial goods business in Bangor in what was billed as a pre-campaign kickoff event before Woodcock set out for the state fairs. Collins, R-Maine, faces no election this year.

Merrill and Green Independent Pat LaMarche planned to attend the Blue Hill and Windsor fairs among other events this weekend, but neither planned any formal kickoff events.

LaMarche and Woodcock said her campaign was in an intense phase well before Labor Day weekend. “We’re been at 18-7 for three months,” LaMarche said Friday.

Woodcock campaign manager Chris Jackson said that while voters’ awareness of the campaigns may increase after Labor Day, his campaign “has been intense since the spring.”

Baldacci was making the blue-collar circuit in hopes of sending a message that he’s the best candidate for working families, campaign manager Jesse Connolly said Friday as the governor’s “Maine Values, Hard Work” tour was launched.

Baldacci’s cross-state tour started Friday afternoon outside the Sappi paper mill in Westbrook, where he received labor union endorsements.

On Saturday, the tour takes Baldacci to the Lincoln Pulp and Paper mill, and on Monday he’s scheduled to attend a Labor Day breakfast in Portland before visiting the Verso Paper Mill in Bucksport.

Baldacci is securing his links with working Mainers in hopes of highlighting a contrast with his rivals, said Connolly. “He understands and cares about the issues facing Maine voters,” Connolly said.

The tour got under way just after the state Democratic Party began airing television ads on behalf of Baldacci, answering the Republican Governor’s Association’s recent “issue” ads on behalf of Woodcock.

Baldacci’s ads highlight the governor’s role in persuading the federal base-closure commission not to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard or defense accounting center in Limestone last year, preserving hundreds of Maine jobs.

Woodcock’s ads are more biographical in nature, describing him as a former teacher and referencing his military service. Woodcock planned to hit the state fair circuit during the weekend, with visits Friday to the Blue Hill Fair and Saturday to the Windsor Fair.

LaMarche and Merrill have already aired ads outlining their stands on environmental and other issues. Merrill, Woodcock and LaMarche are receiving public campaign financing.

Baldacci, Senate candidate Jean Hay Bright, and U.S. Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud are scheduled to join Democratic party leaders Tuesday at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland to highlight their agenda for the fall campaign. As outlined by the party, the top issues include the costs of health care, energy and college, retirement and fiscal responsibility.


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