Update on 9/26: Sen. Langley says that the ad buy that posted with WABI is for his business, not his campaign and that he hasn't made any advertisements for his candidacy as of yet. That may be true since the political file doesn't show an amount for the order. However, the buy was posted in the station's political file and marked "Langley for State Senate." The disclosure should not have occurred for a private business and may have been posted in error by the station. -- S.M.
Labor Day is right around the corner, but a pair of legislative candidates in key battleground contests who aren't waiting for the unofficial opening of the campaign season have already taken the somewhat rare step of releasing television ads to support their own candidacies.
According to reports to the Federal Communications Commission, state Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, and Republican state senate hopeful Carey Weston in Bangor have purchased television air time for a pre-Labor Day run of ads. The buys have been posted in the political file for WABI-5 in Bangor. The records don't specify the amount that Langley is spending, but the file shows that Weston plans to spend at least $1,160 for six slots, most of which will not occur during prime viewing times.
Even without Langley's purchase, the total buys pale in comparison to the amount of money that will be spent by outside groups in these two races. Langley, who represents what is now District 7, narrowly defeated Democrat David White for his second term in 2012. Despite his moderate reputation, he is expected to be targeted because the makeup of registered voters in his district is such that Democrats have a chance to unseat him. Outside groups spent over $80,000 attempting to influence the Langley-White race in 2012, nearly double what the individual candidates combined to spend on their own (Both candidates ran publicly financed campaigns through the Maine Clean Elections Act, which began capping allocations after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of matching funds in a similar law in Arizona.).
Meanwhile, Weston is making a run at what has been the most expensive seat in the Maine Legislature, District 9 (formerly District 32). In 2012, outside groups spent over $400,000 on ads and mailers for the race between Republican Nichi Farnham and Democrat Geoffrey Gratwick, more than 10 times what the candidates spent on their own behalf. Gratwick narrowly won the contest and he's expected to face a stiff challenge from Weston, the former mayor of Bangor.
It's unclear if outside groups have already spent money on these races, but it's likely to begin in earnest after Labor Day. A change in the disclosure law in 2012 requires that independent groups must file reports within two calendar days if they spend more than $250 on a candidate ad. The reporting requirement goes into effect on Sept. 5, so spending done before then won't be posted until that date. The reporting requirement changes to one calendar day between Oct. 22 through Nov. 4.