AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday he has no plans to endorse any of the six Republican Senate candidates vying for their party’s nod in the June 12 primary. The statement came a day after Republican voters received a campaign mailing from candidate Bruce Poliquin that puts his photo next to Gov. Paul LePage’s and says the men are “two conservatives fighting for Maine’s future.”
“Republicans have six well-qualified candidates to choose from,” LePage said in a statement released by his office. “May the best person win.”
The governor’s office didn’t confirm that the statement was a response to the mailing from Poliquin, Maine’s state treasurer, though the mailing quickly drew criticism from Poliquin’s rivals in the GOP Senate race.
“I don’t think anybody should be putting the governor in the position he was put in, where he was forced to go out and issue a statement saying he wasn’t supporting anybody,” said Charlie Summers, Maine’s secretary of state. “All of us have pictures of ourselves with Gov. LePage, but we don’t use them to fool people into thinking we’re being supported by him.”
Brent Littlefield, who works separately as a LePage political adviser and a consultant to Republican Rick Bennett’s Senate campaign, said the LePage administration appreciates Poliquin’s support for its agenda.
But Poliquin is “taking a lot of credit for these things and trying to imply an endorsement,” Littlefield said.
Attorney General William Schneider, another Poliquin rival in the Senate race, released a statement criticizing Poliquin for what he characterized as an attempt to mislead voters.
“Throughout this campaign, Bruce Poliquin has attempted to ride the governor’s coattails and claims as his own the successes of the Republican administration and Legislature,” Schneider said. “Poliquin’s recent mailing is remarkable in its bold attempt to imply an endorsement by the Governor.”
Asked if he was implying a LePage endorsement, Poliquin said he was stating information that is “public record.”
“What I am saying is just what is: that I have been working with Gov. LePage from the beginning,” he said. “I have been working side by side with the governor since the beginning, and I’m very proud of our achievements.”
“At no time, in any of our voter contact, have we ever asserted that we have Gov. LePage’s endorsement,” Poliquin’s campaign manager, Tyler Harber, added in an email.
The mailing isn’t the first piece of campaign publicity from Poliquin that closely associates the treasurer with LePage.
A television ad produced earlier this month shows a number of images of Poliquin with LePage and says, “Gov. LePage is enacting conservative reforms, and Bruce Poliquin has been at his side the whole way.”
Poliquin was one of six LePage opponents in a seven-way Republican primary for governor in 2010 that LePage won with 37 percent of the vote. Shortly after his election as governor in 2010, LePage endorsed Poliquin for the state treasurer’s job.
The state treasurer is one of Maine’s three constitutional officers, all of whom are chosen by the Legislature.
While Poliquin has been a vocal supporter of LePage initiatives and appeared by the governor’s side at many public events, LePage has connections to other candidates in the GOP primary race. Bennett, for example, served on LePage’s transition team.