Lip gloss. Hoodies. Hot dogs. It isn’t just TV stations and the post office benefiting from this election season’s heated campaigns in Maine.

Fired up by the last presidential debate, Amanda Nelson, owner of a small Maine soap company behind quirky scents like Unicorn Farts and Bloody Lumberjack, created 40 tubes of Nasty Woman lip balm and added them to her online inventory.

She was curious to see if anyone would bite.

“Being a Nasty Woman myself, I have trouble keeping my mouth shut, and firmly believe that unless one is on the side of the oppressor, one should always speak out against social injustice using any platform available,” said Nelson, 35, who lives in Damariscotta. “My business just happens to conveniently be a soapbox.”

Within half an hour, it was clear 40 wasn’t going to be enough.

Her Long Winter Soap Co. sold nearly 10,000 Nasty Woman tubes in 10 days.

Nelson, due with her third child any day, and her husband, Lucas McNelly, spent last week working at a furious clip, trying to get as many orders as possible shipped before Election Day.


“Lucas has been in charge of making the balms in our basement lab studio — and making terrible, unprintable jokes about being chained to the work bench for feminism — and I’ve been labeling, packing, shipping and trying to at least keep this kid gestating until we get the orders out,” Nelson said.

When it comes to politically-inspired spending in Maine, $40,000 worth of lip balm is just the tip of it.

The run-up to Nov. 8 is injecting millions of dollars into the state’s economy, captured formally in receipts — think campaign finance reports — and informally in ways harder to quantify — think national media attention around a big guest.

Record-setting spending — $12 million so far — in the race between 2nd Congressional District candidates Emily Cain and Bruce Poliquin, as well as numerous visits to the state by presidential candidate Donald Trump and his family have supercharged the spending numbers.

“I think it was terrific publicity for Ricker Hill Orchards (to host Eric Trump’s recent visit),” said Jim Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Also benefiting: “Printers of palm cards, radio stations, halls and arenas for rent when candidates come. Possibly caterers. Any shops nearby the political event. And if the media and candidates are coming overnight, hotels will benefit, too,” Melcher said.


Records filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices for House and Senate candidates show campaign expenses that range from $79,201.08 spent at Staples statewide to $634.24 at Lewiston’s Italian Bakery.

“We get a little bit more going on the grill, we pull in a few more staff members, too,” said Jimmy Simones, owner of Simones’ Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston, host to several high-profile visits. “When Emily Cain and George Mitchell came in, they had a really good crowd. When we had Donald Trump Jr., that was again another busy time. It does definitely help the economy in the state, I’ll tell you that.”


Through the end of October, Maine candidates for House and Senate spent $2.2 million on ads, travel, office supplies and websites, just over $1.5 million of that with Maine companies and service providers, according to filings with the ethics commission.

Political action committees involved in those same state races spent more than $13.6 million, half of that with Maine companies.

Ballot question committees spent $11.5 million, $6.8 million within Maine.


And the political parties themselves spent $3.9 million, $2.6 million within the state.

That money has been spread around hundreds of places: $28.62 at the Sudbury Inn in Bethel; $540.73 at Marden’s; $2,307 at Big Apple; $7,246 at Hannaford.

At Dunkin’ Donuts across the state: $3,232.08 has been spent, including $1,818 in one day by Horseracing Jobs for Fairness, a group behind the failed effort to get a York County casino question on the ballot. From that same effort: $574,220 paid to Stavros Mendros’ Olympic Consulting in Lewiston for signature gathering.

That’s on top of the money coming into the state for ads for national political races. For instance, for just the week of Oct. 25, the two presidential campaigns spent more than $300,000 for TV ads in Maine, according to Bloomberg news. 

Maine state economist Amanda Rector said the impact of all that money depends to some degree on where it’s coming from — within or outside of the state — and where it’s going — whether to locally held companies or a corporate parent somewhere else.

“The thing to keep in mind is that the money being spent by the campaigns is coming from somewhere. The question is whether that would have been spent somewhere else in the economy,” Rector said. “(If) instead of buying a new washing machine, you’re donating to a political campaign, then that’s not even a wash, that might be detrimental to the economy.”


The impact, overall, might be minimal, she said. “There are so many moving parts, it’s very difficult to say.”

At the ground level, for a Maine business owner, it can be a big deal. 

“We look at it every couple years as we get a bounce in October,” said Dick Gleason of Auburn, president of Gleason Media Services, with local radio stations WEZR, WTME and WOXO. “I’m very glad that this is one of those years.”

Reports filed with the state showed more than $11,000 spent on campaign and candidate ads at his stations.

“It’s like pennies from heaven — you can’t plan on anything,” Gleason said. “So we just budget as we go along and then if we get it, we get it.”

He plans to use those pennies for capital improvements and paying bills.



As the clock winds down to Tuesday’s election and analysts talk in feverish tones about securing electoral votes, more eyes turn to Blue Hill.

John and Marcia Diamond have sold Electoral College wear since 1994 — mock college sweatshirts with official-looking seals that are nods to the electoral process. 

“In 2000, remember the year of the hanging chads and all that, sales went crazy,” said Marcia Diamond. “We were on ‘The Today Show’ with Katie Couric and we actually that year had to get a warehouse and hire about a dozen employees to get us through the season.”

Not that she’s rooting for that sort of drama this year: “We always say, we don’t want unrest on the college campus.”

Sales have been good, she said, spiking around convention time, and typically in an election year they stay strong up to Christmas.


“One thing we found really interesting this year is we had an increased demand on what we call our ‘throwback’ T-shirts — those are the ones that say, ‘Electoral College Class of 1960,’ ‘Electoral College Class of 1980’ that refer to the Kennedy and Reagan election years,” she said. “Really, what we’re thinking is maybe it’s just reflecting some nostalgia for a time when voters felt more positively about their choice in candidates.”

Nelson, at Long Winter Soap Co., said she’s fielded bulk orders for Nasty Woman lip balm from book clubs, campaign offices, school offices, Americans living abroad “and a surprising number from foreign citizens.”

With oodles of merchandise that popped up online almost as soon as Donald Trump uttered the now-infamous phrase in Hillary Clinton’s direction, she is surprised her lip balm took off in that crowded field.

“Logistically, we weren’t remotely prepared to be sending out 3,000 orders this week,” said Nelson, who plans to sell Nasty lip balm even post-election: “Unless misogyny miraculously ceases to exist, we’ll keep offering it.”

Forgoing any political dough this season: Grant’s Bakery. 

The Lewiston bakery decided last week to skip its popular, unofficial candidate cookie poll, based on the sales of cookies bearing the likenesses of the presidential candidates. 


“Last time when we did it we took a lot of flak from our customers about ‘buying votes,’ ‘it’s not real,’ ‘you’re trying to influence the vote,'” said President Don Grant. “So this year, as contentious as the two candidates are, we thought it a little too controversial to be involved with.”

But never say never — he can see doing it again.

“I found it to be a lot of fun,” Grant said. 


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