Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, R-Fairfield, is pictured on May 6, 2019. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Three dozen Republicans running for the Maine House of Representatives in November issued a statement Monday refusing to answer questions for a Bangor Daily News voter guide, accusing the newspaper of a “far-left” agenda.

The survey of all candidates in the 186 races for seats in both chambers of the Legislature is a regular feature of the BDN’s election coverage. The BDN poses mostly open-ended questions on top issues facing the state and publishes verbatim responses as part of a tool that allows readers to look up their candidates and their views on major policy areas.

The organized pushback to the questionnaire, which was led by Reps. Shelley Rudnicki of Fairfield and John Andrews of Paris, came from just over a quarter of the Republican candidates running for the lower chamber in the 2022 elections. It included 12 sitting lawmakers and two dozen House candidates.

It is a stark example of increasing conservative distrust of the media. Maine candidates have often refused to take the survey and the response rate has regularly been lower among Republicans. Other candidates have cited their distance from the BDN’s core coverage area or an uncontested candidacy, but this is the first public attempt to reject the survey.

The step was announced in a news release from Andrews on Monday, saying the group has sent a certified letter to the newspaper saying it will not participate in the exercise. It adds that the BDN has drifted left to become “essentially nothing more than a mouthpiece for the far-left Democrat agenda.”

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The group took issue with the only two multiple-choice questions in the 10-question survey. One asks candidates whether abortions should be easier or harder to get, or whether no changes in state abortion law should be considered. The second asks whether Maine’s voting system is safe and secure, with “yes” and “no” as options alongside an open “other” answer.

While candidates are forced to pick one of those choices, the questionnaire also allows open-ended responses to the questions on both abortion and voting policy, allowing candidates to expound on their ideas.

“To this end, we have decided to take our message directly to the people, opting not to have it filtered through a media outlet we simply don’t trust,” the Republicans said.

The BDN made clear to candidates in a list of instructions that their responses would be published verbatim. Other parts of the survey included open-ended questions on high costs, housing affordability and the opioid crisis. Candidates were given two weeks to respond to the survey with a deadline of this Friday.

“The questions in our voter’s guide are fair and address the biggest issues facing Mainers during this important election cycle,” Dan MacLeod, the BDN’s managing editor, said. “Candidates from all parties have the opportunity to share their unfiltered stances with a large audience.”

The episode is another example of growing polarization in the Maine Legislature, with the share of Democrats and Republicans breaking with their parties in votes steadily declining since 2008. The group includes some of the more strident Republicans and four lawmakers who refused to wear masks for a brief period when they were required in the State House last year.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...