The Bellows for Senate campaign has replaced a portion of an advertisement on the “working class” a day after being criticized for using stock footage of a worker who was not from Maine.
Last Friday, Shenna Bellows released an ad that calls for raising the minimum wage and increasing the Social Security benefit as part of her campaign against Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins. The ad featured several brief clips of individuals – parents with young children, senior citizens, a hard hat-wearing worker – as Bellows talked about the need to strengthen the middle class.
But debate erupted on Twitter and other social media after some Republican observers – such as Portland Press Herald political contributor Philip Harriman – pointed out that the clip of the worker was apparently stock footage. Harriman wrote in an “Agree to Disagree” column that the footage was supplied by an Oregon-based company that hires actors to film scenes for advertisements.
“Now, I don’t actually know whether this guy is from Maine, ever been to Maine, or plans to vacation in Maine if Shenna wins, but it sure seems inappropriate for her to be running an ad where she says she wants ‘Maine families to get ahead’ while using stock footage of a model/actor who is probably from somewhere else,” wrote Harriman, a former Republican state senator.
On Tuesday, Republican observers noted again that the Bellows campaign had released a new version of the ad. This time, the stock footage was replaced with clips of two new but still-unidentified workers.
Links to the old ad no longer work. Here is the new ad:
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Bellows downplayed the original clip -- accurately pointing out that "campaigns often use stock footage" -- but called the inclusion an "oversight" amid the bustle to launch both an ad campaign and a 350-mile walk across the state. Bellows said she had seen the ad prior to airing but did not know the worker was not from Maine.
Both of the workers in the new version are from Maine -- one from Westbrook and the other from Bowdoinham. One worker is wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the number "327" in the middle of what appears to be the seal for the Local 327 chapter of the Laborers' International Union of North America in Augusta, which has endorsed Bellows' campaign.
"I think the fact that we are up on television in July is a testament to the strength of the campaign," Bellows said. "And the fact that Republicans are making a mountain out of a mole hill is a testament to the strength of our support."
Bellows also called it "ridiculous" that Republicans would suggest she lacks support from workers considering that her campaign has been endorsed by numerous unions, including the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions with 26,000 members statewide. Collins has also picked up union endorsements, including all four representing employees at Bath Iron Works.
Republicans nonetheless attempted to capitalize on the incident.
"This is just one more amateur-hour effort by the Bellows campaign," Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen said in a statement. "When you outsource your campaign to D.C. consultants, this kind of mistake is bound to happen."
Bellows is several days into a 350-mile walking tour of Maine that began in Houlton and will end in Kittery next month.