AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - This campaign season, Maine Republicans on Wednesday launched what’s expected to be a continued push against Democratic legislative candidates and what the GOP says is their resistance to efforts to overhaul the state’s welfare programs.
A new website created by the Maine Republican Party slams several incumbent Democratic candidates for their votes last session on proposals such as requiring welfare applicants to search for jobs before they can receive benefits.
Democrats say Republicans are distorting the truth and ignoring their efforts to compromise to bring some change to Maine’s welfare programs.
But Republicans, who are hoping to regain majorities in the House and Senate in November, say they will continue to highlight what they see as Democrats’ failures to enact safeguards against fraud and abuse in the system that takes resources away from those who truly need it.
“Democratic politicians are on the wrong side of the welfare reform issue, and it’s important that Mainers know where they stand,” Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Chris Johnson of Somerville, one of the lawmakers targeted by the website, said the party is “playing fast and loose with the truth.”
The website says Johnson “supports welfare abuse” and “voted to allow welfare dollars to be spent … at places like Disney World, Las Vegas casinos and Hawaii” in reference to Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to prohibit electronic benefit transfer cards from being used out of state.
Democrats questioned the constitutionality of that measure and raised concerns about preventing people who live near the New Hampshire border from shopping there.
Johnson supported an amended version that would have directed the state to study the issue further. The bill was vetoed by LePage.
David Sorensen, spokesman for the Republican Party, dismissed Democrats’ claims that they wanted to compromise. Several bills were rejected outright or so revised as to make ineffective, he said. On a proposal that would have banned liquor purchases using cash obtained with EBT cards, for instance, Democrats wanted to scale back the penalties so much as to make a ban meaningless, Sorensen said.
Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said Republicans are campaigning on welfare because they can’t run on LePage’s “failed record on jobs and the economy.”
“It’s not a surprise given the LePage and Republican failures on every other issue area facing Maine right now that they are going to rely on demagoging welfare and poor people this election season,” he said.
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