PORTLAND – Scrambling to address a television news report detailing 10 liens placed against his Farmington home for unpaid sewer bills and state income taxes, Republican nominee Chandler Woodcock lashed back Thursday morning saying the story was peddled to the media by his opponents.
“I have been attacked personally because my opponents want to change the subject – they don’t want to change Augusta …” Woodcock said. “That these documents are surfacing less than two weeks before the election is suspicious at best and dirty politics at worst.”
Woodcock was referring to a news story aired Wednesday evening by WMTW-TV8 in Auburn detailing how the retired teacher and coach had failed to pay about $2,700 in municipal sewer bills between 1997 and 2004, resulting in the town’s placement of nine liens on his property. As recently as 2005, the state placed a lien on his home for failing to pay $800 in state income taxes in 2003.
The GOP candidate said all of the taxes have since been paid and the liens discharged. He added that he never tried to hide the tax problems, which are part of the public record. But he said he chose not to discuss them during the campaign because he felt it was a private issue.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. John E. Baldacci acknowledged Thursday that a lien briefly had been placed against his family’s restaurant, Momma Baldacci’s, in 2003 when payment to the city of Bangor came up $7.62 short on a $4,937 property tax bill. Baldacci said he mistakenly believed the small amount of taxes had been paid out of his late mother’s estate.
“It was an accounting error – we were $7.62 short,” Baldacci said. “It’s been taken care of.”
Green Independent Party nominee Pat LaMarche and independent candidate Barbara Merrill both said Thursday they had never been faced with municipal or state tax liens, although Merrill acknowledged she had been the target of a mechanic’s lien resulting from a dispute with her home’s builders that later was resolved. Efforts to reach independent gubernatorial candidate Phillip Morris NaPier for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.
Flanked by his campaign’s co-chairmen, former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett and current Senate Minority Leader Paul Davis, Woodcock said the television station picked up on his lien history after information about the debts was posted on a message board hosted by the Waterville Morning Sentinel.
“I’m aware that the source of the original article was from one of my opponent’s parties,” Woodcock said and declined to elaborate. “That’s all I can say. It’s all I’ve been told. I don’t have a name to attach to it.”
Greg Matz, news director at WMTW-TV8, said his reporters simply followed the information on the newspaper’s Web site and denied there was any political motivation to air the story so close to Election Day. Meanwhile, all of Woodcock’s opponents and representatives of the Democratic and Green Independent parties denied Thursday any role in any activities that may have led to generation of the news story.
Woodcock, a fiscal conservative who wants to cut spending and lower taxes, said while campaigning that he has “struggled” like all Mainers to make ends meet.
“I meant it when I said, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve been in your shoes.’ My wife and I have put our four children through college and have helped care for an ill family member in recent years. Things have been tight for us at times,” he said.
The retired schoolteacher said that paying the bills has never been easy but it “has always gotten done.”
Woodcock said he didn’t believe there was any linkage between his ability to handle his own financial affairs and the expertise he would bring to state fiscal matters as governor. He said he would continue to spread his message of lower taxes, more affordable health insurance and a stronger economy for Maine’s working families and was not particularly concerned about the impact his past finances would have on voters.
“I’m really not afraid of anything that people may draw for a conclusion because of this,” Woodcock said. “People will draw whatever conclusion they choose. I’m not changing the statistics or hiding from history. My strong feeling is that I would think that we have overcome the problems that we’ve had. I’m the same candidate, I haven’t changed.”