BANGOR – In one of the more heated campaigns this election season, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and her rival, Democrat Chellie Pingree, each signed the Maine Code of Election Ethics in separate ceremonies Thursday.
Thus far, the race has been marked with a deluge of television advertising, most of which has prompted allegations of dirty tricks from either the incumbent Collins or Pingree, a former state senator from North Haven.
“Anyone who has watched television recently knows that those special values that we care about in Maine are under assault this year,” said Collins, who signed the pledge Thursday afternoon at her Bangor office. “Outside forces operating with vast amounts of money from special interest groups are flooding our state with advertising that is demonstrably untrue.”
The code, sponsored by the Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy and the Institute for Global Ethics in Camden, calls upon candidates, in general terms, to run “substantive issue-oriented election campaigns” and refrain from negative attacks against their opponents.
Signing her pledge in Portland earlier that day, Pingree agreed with the code’s intent.
“The code reaffirms what elections are all about – integrity, honesty and issues,” Pingree said. “I am committed to running my campaign strictly on the issues that matter to Maine families.”
Each candidate has accused the other – or more specifically outside interests supporting their respective candidacies – of stretching the truth or engaging in personal attacks in their television advertising.
The pledge also calls for candidates to repudiate negative attacks by outside interest groups.
Collins on Thursday said that, in her opinion, a controversial Maine Republican Party ad that called Pingree “desperate” and tainted her picture green, blue and red did not run afoul of the code.
Furthermore, Collins said the GOP ad was a response to those from Pingree supporters that distorted her record on prescription drugs and trade.
A GOP staffer earlier this week said comparing the anti-Collins ads to the anti-Pingree ads was like “comparing aggravated assault to jaywalking.”
Pingree aides on Thursday stood behind the ads in question that were funded by the AFL-CIO and Maine Democratic Party.
“They were highlighting issues based on [Collins’] record,” said Pingree spokeswoman Deborah Barron. “We just disagree with her record.”
Thursday’s signing of the pledge was unlikely to change the tenor of the testy campaign, according to political analyst Jim Melcher, a political science professor at the University of Maine at Farmington.
But he was quick to add that politics shouldn’t be all smiling and shaking hands.
“Not all advertising that puts an opponent in a bad light -and points out differences – is necessarily bad,” said Melcher, adding that he thought the GOP ad calling Pingree “desperate” was the closest to violating the code. “I think some of the things that shock Mainers would not shock people in other parts of the country.”
Candidates for governor and the 1st Congressional District have already signed the pledge.
In the 2nd Congressional District race, Democrat Mike Michaud signed the pledge this week, with Republican Kevin Raye set to do so at a later date.