AUGUSTA — The state’s top advocacy group for those who hunt and fish released its letter grades Thursday for the candidates hoping to be Maine’s next governor.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage received the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine’s highest grade with an A, but close behind him with an A- is his Democratic challenger, 2nd District Congressman Mike Michaud. Independent Eliot Cutler received a B from the group.

The grades are based on candidates’ responses to a questionnaire. According a release from SAM, Michaud and Cutler were marked down for their support of universal background checks for private gun sales.

According to a statement released with the grades, SAM is opposed to private gun sales background checks.

“Although this policy change sounds attractive, our organization remains very concerned with the unintended consequences of such a change, including the creation of a database of all firearm owners, massive expansion of enforcement, monitoring of law-abiding citizens and the cost of such a plan,” the statement said. 

Cutler was dinged for his support of a proposed new federal park in northern Maine.

“The place we disagree is in the support of some version of a new national park in the Millinocket region,” the SAM release said. “To his credit, he is honest and vocal of his support for the park as a way to bring jobs and hope to this region.”

Michaud was praised by SAM for his long-standing support of Maine’s hunting and sporting traditions.

LePage also received the highest praise, especially for his support of Second Amendment rights and his support of allowing the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to take a stance in opposition to an upcoming ballot question that looks to stop the practice of hunting bear with the use of bait and tracking dogs.

All three candidates are members of the group and the release notes that Cutler and Michaud have been “lifelong members.”

Alex Willette, a spokesman for LePage’s re-election campaign, said they were pleased with the governor’s grade and sought to compare his stance on guns to Michaud’s.

“Congressman Michael Michaud has recently changed his positions on issues important to sportsmen,” Willette said. “Gov. LePage has continuously shown his support of the Second Amendment and has not let politics get in the way of supporting our Maine hunting heritage.”

But Michaud said he was still proud of his grade and his longtime support for and from SAM’s membership.

“Even though we may not agree on my support for strengthening background checks, I’m committed to maintaining a strong partnership with SAM and its members as governor,” Michaud said in a prepared statement.
 
Cutler also said he was satisfied with his grade and continued to support universal background checks for firearms sales and the idea of a park in northern Maine as a way to bolster economic development in the region.
 
“Mr. Michaud and Mr. LePage, on the other hand, are unwilling to consider new ideas to bring jobs to the Katahdin region,” Cutler said. “If opposition to universal background checks and turning your back on new ideas is required in order to get a higher grade, I’ll settle for a B.”
 


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