Down East 2013 ©
When I first wrote about  the strange case of Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Abbott’s campaign obtaining and using the GOP delegate list before the other Republican candidates, I thought it was just a small piece of campaign errata and likely the result of a simple misunderstanding.
The only really interesting thing about it was the seemingly contradictory stories from Abbott’s campaign staff, who said that they got the list early because they had people with connections and knowledge of Republican Party operations, and the Maine GOP, who said that they hadn’t given Abbott the list early at all. At the time I figured one or the other was mistaken or lying, but didn’t have the time or the interest to figure out which.
It now appears that both were telling the truth. Abbott's campaign staff did get the list early through their connections and the Party didn’t give it to them.
How can this be true? According to Maine Republican Party Chair Charlie Webster, the Abbott campaign stole it.
I learned about this accusation from two Republican convention delegates, Carter Jones from Amherst and David Cameron (not the British Prime Minister) from Brewer, who are both supporting Paul LePage.
Jones and Cameron were upset with what they’d heard from friends in the LePage campaign, mainly that they had requested the list repeatedly through official channels and not received it, while at the same time postcards from the Abbott campaign were hitting the mailboxes of GOP delegates all over the state.
During the GOP convention, the two delegates approached Webster with questions about the list (and with a digital voice recorder). Webster responded that the Abbott campaign “stole it.” He repeated the accusation twice and explained how an Abbott supporter volunteering at Republican headquarters surreptitiously copied the list and sent it to the Abbott campaign.
The two Republicans also confronted Steve Abbott with the same question. His response (also on tape) was very different, and he seemed unaware of his campaign's supposed actions.
"We asked for it, and this is an advantage of this not being my first convention. We know to ask,” said Abbott. “They send it when you ask. They don't just send it out. They send it when you ask.”
Jones, a member of the Tea Party and the 9/12 movement, says he knows who he believes.
“Charlie was upset, visibly, you could tell he was upset about it, so I feel that he's the one being honest and I'm a pretty good judge of character,” explained Jones.
To help clear things up, I spoke to Webster, who confirmed his earlier statements and his emotional state.
“Was I irritated? Of course I was irritated. I felt that this information should not be made available until we determined that everyone should have it.”
Overall, however, he blamed the incident on one “overzealous” Abbott supporter, and said that the whole thing was “a lot about nothing” and a “non-issue,” since, according to him, Abbott obtained the list only a few hours before the other candidates. He said he didn’t know if Abbott’s supporter was paid by the campaign or simply a volunteer.
Webster also faulted Cameron and Jones for bringing it up.
“This does not help Paul LePage. If this is the kind of tactics people use, it doesn't help anybody, because it implies that Steve Abbott or Les Otten or whoever, that this is some kind of sinister plan to hurt their campaign, which is far from the case,” said Webster.
LePage press secretary Mike Hersey disputes Webster’s timeframe, however. After conferring with LePage’s chief of staff, he reported that the LePage campaign requested the list more than a week before they received it and were still requesting it a couple days after Abbott’s mailing had already been delivered.
“That's not true at all,” said Webster, when asked about the LePage campaign’s statements. “I can guarantee that's not true at all. That's a fabrication by somebody. I don't believe in LePage's case that he ever asked for it.”
Looks like someone is still lying.
Webster may be right that this whole thing is a lot about a little – the advantage Abbott received from obtaining the list early was no doubt small – but it does expose a rift between two campaigns that may be a sign of deeper fissures within the Republican Party.
Many of LePage’s supporters hail from the insurgent, Tea Party wing of the GOP and seem to have an innate distrust for people they see as moderates or part of the Party machine. Abbott, coming directly from Washington and the office of Senator Susan Collins, certainly fits that bill.
Perceived favoritism towards Abbott can only increase that distrust.
“Les Otten got in trouble for plagiarism and he had to step up and take the heat for it. Why is it that someone on Abbott's campaign did this and gets away with it?” said Cameron. “Pardon my French, but bullshit. That's not right.”