Emily Cain goes on the attack

State Sen. Emily Cain of Orono has made the decision to go on the offensive against fellow Democratic state Sen. Troy Jackson in the Democratic primary for Congress.

In a Cain for Congress fundraising letter that hit mailboxes yesterday, page 1 starts out with a standard message about how strong her campaign is, endorsements received and grassroots support. Very positive and upbeat.

And then, as you flip the page, the tone changes:

“My opponent, Troy Jackson will stop at nothing to win in June. The voters of Maine’s Second Congressional District are at a crossroads and the question that needs to be asked is ‘Are we prepared to roll back the years here in Maine to a more conservative time?’ The answer is definitely no, but my primary opponent’s record tells another story.

“He was the only Senate Democrat to vote against marriage equality in 2009, is a consistent opponent of women’s rights and has a 64% voting record with the League of Conservation Voters. This is not the kind of representation the voter’s of Maine’s second congressional district want!”

In this 2011 file photo, then-Reps. Andre Cushing (left), R-Hampden, and Emily Cain, D-Orono, laugh at a joke made by Cushing as they begin to answer questions during a public forum sponsored by the Bangor Daily News at the Bangor Public Library. Cain is now running for Congress. | BDN photo by Kevin Bennett

In this 2011 file photo, then-Reps. Andre Cushing (left), R-Hampden, and Emily Cain, D-Orono, laughed at a joke made by Cushing as they began to answer questions during a public forum sponsored by the Bangor Daily News at the Bangor Public Library. Cain is now running for Congress. | BDN photo by Kevin Bennett

I will let the two candidates duke it out on whether the attack is fair (I expect that Troy will take exception to Emily saying he has been a “consistent opponent of women’s rights”), but I give Emily credit for being willing to fight for the soul of the party. Democrats are often too timid in calling each other out on votes that are antithetical to our values. (Voting against gun control and for cutting taxes on the wealthy, are two that come to mind.)

Strategically, however, signing the letter herself and not doing it through emissaries could cause some backlash. Emily could be seen as someone who helped harm another Democrat’s chances of winning the more important election in the fall, and she could come across as playing the same-old Washington game. One of the reasons Democrats don’t directly attack each other is because voters usually don’t like it.

Additionally, by attacking this early, she may give Troy a prime opportunity to respond and explain his positions on a bigger stage. And, since she threw the first stone, he now has an open opportunity to strike back on any votes she took that might not have been in line with the Democratic base.

It’s also fair to say that this could be seen as a sign of Emily is feeling some heat from Troy. She has higher name recognition than him and has been ahead of him in all the polling I have seen. However, Troy has received a number of high-profile labor endorsements; he surprised everyone by almost beating her in fundraising last quarter; and a recent poll showed him as a little stronger in the fall against Bruce Poliquin, the possible Republican nominee (they were equal against Republican Kevin Raye). She may also have her own polling showing him making up ground.

Regardless, clearly the gloves have come off. Stay tuned for round two.

Posted by Ethan Strimling

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