Democrat Shenna Bellows has begun airing new ads on television stations throughout Maine ahead of a 350-mile walk to build support for her campaign for the U.S. Senate.
The campaign of incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins, meanwhile, promptly responded Friday by purchasing even more TV time than the Bellows camp in an early example of the political advertising wars likely to dominate Maine's TV airwaves through the fall elections.
The Bellows campaign purchased more than $21,000 in ads -- a relatively modest buy -- to run largely during news programs on stations from Presque Isle to Portland. The ads began airing Friday morning and are slated to run through Monday evening, according to public disclosure reports posted on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.
The new ad, which is Bellows’ second in her campaign against Collins, calls for raising the minimum wage and increasing Social Security benefits. It does not mention Collins by name but says "Republicans in Washington don't have any understanding of what the middle class is."
"If you work hard, you should make enough money to provide for your family," Bellows says in the ad.
By late Friday afternoon, the Collins campaign had purchased more than $31,000 in airtime beginning Friday but continuing through at least Wednesday. Collins spokesman Lance Dutson said the 60-second ad is the same one aired earlier by the campaign highlighting the fact that the Republican picked up endorsements from all four labor unions at Bath Iron Works shipyard.
"That will be the running strategy going forward," Dutson said when asked whether the ad purchases were a response to the Bellows ads.
The Bellows TV spot's debut coincides with the start of a 3 ½-week long walking tour of Maine that Bellows will begin Sunday in Houlton. She plans to walk 350 miles to Kittery as part of her “Walk Across Maine for Jobs and the Economy,” with events planned along the way.
Bellows is reprising a campaign strategy first used in Maine by Republican William Cohen during his successful run for Congress in 1972. Cohen would serve 24 years in the House and Senate before serving as Secretary of Defense during the Clinton administration.
“I'm proud to revive an important Maine tradition of a walk across the state because our politics should be about listening to the voices of ordinary people again,” Bellows, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said in announcing the walk last month. “Too many politicians aren't really concerned about listening to voters. I'm excited to hear people's concerns and be a voice for those concerns in Washington.”
Collins, a moderate Republican first elected to the Senate in 1996, has a large financial advantage over Bellows and continues to enjoy a large lead over her Democratic challenger in polls. The Collins campaign reported raising more than $900,000 during the latest fundraising quarter and ended the period with $4 million in cash on hand. The Bellows campaign reported raising approximately $563,000 over the same period, with about $583,000 in cash still available.