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US Senate race starts to take shape

 Election Watch
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  December 12, 2013

Democrat Shenna Bellows, who is running to replace Republican Susan Collins in the US Congress, released a promotional web video on Tuesday morning, offering a glimpse of what next year’s Senate-race election narrative will look like. Bellows, who formerly headed the Maine ACLU, plans to challenge Collins on issues like government surveillance, economic fairness, and political courage.

“In the past two decades, Washington has manufactured an economic crisis, an environmental crisis, and a constitutional crisis,” Bellows says to the camera. “No one in Washington is standing up for the people who are hurting . . . Maine needs a senator with the courage to lead.”

The video, which is just over two minutes long (and can be viewed at bellowsforsenate.com), features Mainers talking up the candidate’s “middle-class values,” work ethic, and effective leadership. Former state legislator Dennis Damon, a Democrat from Bellows’s native Hancock County with whom Bellows worked closely on the same-sex marriage campaign, is among those who speak of her as a hard worker who “doesn’t handle things like a politician.”

And just as gubernatorial candidate and US Representative Mike Michaud, a Democrat, is known as a “former paper mill worker” (not even announcing he’s gay can shake that descriptor), Bellows appears to be going with “the carpenter’s daughter” as her one-line characterization.

Meanwhile, a challenger has emerged on Collins’s right. In theory, this scenario has the potential to damage Collins, who — on some issues — votes more moderately than her Tea Party colleagues. In November, Public Policy Polling said that “if Collins has any potential vulnerability next year it continues to come with the Republican primary electorate,” with 44 percent  of GOP voters saying they’d support a more conservative alternative to her next year (compared to 48 percent who said they’d support Collins in a primary).

However, it remains to be seen how much impact this particular primary opponent — gay-marriage opponent and founder of the questionably relevant Maine Equal Rights Center Erick Bennett — can have. Bennett, who ran for mayor of Portland in 2011, was criticized during that time for posting topless photos of himself on social-media sites, an assault conviction, and having (supposedly) worked to elect Paul LePage. Here’s a recent gem from Bennett’s Facebook page: “Nelson Mandela was no Dr. Martin Luther King and to celebrate the life of a communist terrorist who should have spent his life in prison for killing untold women and children in an attempt to create a communist state will indoctrinate a new generation in this country to follow his example. Expect to see violent crime and poverty in the black community continue to rise as they blindly promote the very form of government that will enslave them. Why don’t we celebrate Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin. They are literally the same thing.”

Seems to us like Collins has more to fear from the left than from the right.

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