The Republican State Leadership Committee's ads are trying to cast Troy Jackson as “just too radical for Maine.”
Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, is sworn into his leadership position by Andrew Mead, then the acting chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, on Dec. 2, 2020, at the Augusta Civic Center. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — National Republicans threw more than $100,000 into an ad campaign against Maine Senate President Troy Jackson on Saturday, raising the stakes in a toss-up race where Democrats have spent heavily to defend their leader.

That new spending makes the 2022 election between Jackson, an Allagash Democrat, and Rep. Sue Bernard, R-Caribou, the most expensive legislative race in Maine history by the level of spending from outside groups. Democrats have spent $354,000 of the $504,000 spent in the northern Aroostook County district that has been on a long-term trend toward Republicans.

National money is nothing new in legislative races and has been a major tool for Democrats in cementing control of Augusta in the last two elections. But it is rare to see a group from outside Maine train this much on one race, as the Republican State Leadership Committee is here.

The group’s ad campaign, scheduled to run through Election Day on radio, TV and online, begins with radio ads calling Jackson “just too radical for Maine.” It also vaguely notes past disagreements with Gov. Janet Mills, who has vetoed some of his health care and labor bills.

A guilt-by-association attack on Jackson is at the heart of the ad, which also hits Jackson for having touted the support of the States Project, a liberal fundraising network, in holding the Senate in 2018 and 2020. The Republican State Leadership Committee and the States Project warred in 2021 over Virginia ads linking the latter group to activist calls to “defund the police.” They remained on the air.

That was the basis for needling signs placed in the district this summer by the Maine Republican Party that associated Jackson with defunding the police. Jackson and Bernard have gotten favorable letters from the Maine Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which decried the attack on Jackson as an example of “misinformation” and called him an ally.

In a Saturday post on Facebook, Jackson said the attacks were an attempt to put “someone from southern Maine” who sides with “big money” in the Senate president’s chair.

“Every single one of the attacks they plan to make is designed to discredit my record by telling you a lie about who I really am,” he wrote.

Democrats are using their affiliations with out-of-state groups to great effect in their effort to cling to the chamber. They have swamped Republicans in the money race so far, dumping $2.2 million in outside money into Senate races, compared with just $437,000 for the minority party.

The States Project put Maine among five states where it was devoting $60 million to keeping control of legislatures this year, according to The New York Times. The battle for the chambers here has been expected to be among the closest in the nation, with the House generally seen as more in play for Republicans than the Senate.

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...