A Dogpile in Senate District 15
How likely are voters to be influenced by a cute puppy? The answer to that question could decide the state senate race in District 15 (Auburn, New Gloucester, Poland and Durham) and could potentially determine which party controls that body of the Maine state legislature. The puppy in question, a creation of the Maine Democratic Party for their website at www.iwasaluckyone.com is meant to remind voters of incumbent Senator Lois Snowe-Mello's complicated relationship with the state's animal welfare program.
Snowe-Mello's puppy problems began more than a year ago, when police and animal welfare agents raided a Buxon puppy mill, rescuing more than 200 dogs from conditions that an animal welfare official described as "below substandard". The state's veterinarian reported squalid, cramped conditions and the presence of diseases including Giardia, sarcoptic mange and ringworm. 98 of the dogs were housed in one 16-by-16 foot room. The puppy mill's owners were charged with operating an unlicensed kennel, animal cruelty and failure to provide necessary medical treatment to animals. They missed their court dates and warrants are now out for their arrest.
In a newspaper article published in the Sun Journal shortly after the raid, Snowe-Mello was quoted disparaging the work of the animal welfare agents and supporting the kennel's owners. One quote in particular where the Senator accused the animal welfare program of engaging in "Gestapo methods" prompted a critical editorial from the paper and a political cartoon from PolitickerME lampooning her actions.
When I wrote a post on the District 15 race two weeks ago, Snowe-Mello assured me that things had happened very differently. She said she had never backed the Buxton kennel owners or supported any puppy mill that abused animals, and that she was misquoted by the Sun Journal. That's what I wrote in the column.
Later, however, I spoke to the newspaper reporter who wrote the article. She stood by her story, insisting that the quotes were accurate and in context, and that Snowe-Mello had consistently opposed the actions taken in Buxton.
Another contemporary article, this one in the American Journal, seems to confirm that Snowe-Mello was strongly opposed to the state's actions. The Journal reports that she actually visited the kennel after it had been seized and attepted to interrogate the workers there, resulting in an "emotional confrontation" involving the senator, the kennel owners and local police.
One person who is absolutely convinced of Snowe-Mello's actions is Robert Fisk, President of Maine Friends of Animals. His organization is running a print ad attacking Snowe-Mello for her actions in Buxton, and he describes the senator as "one of the worst legislators on animal welfare." His group is encouraging their members to volunteer for Snowe-Mello's opponent, Democrat Deborah Simpson.
If you live in the district, look forward to hearing more about the puppy issue. The Democratic Party has just purchased more than $17,000 worth of radio ads opposing Snowe-Mello and I imagine that puppies are going to make an appearance.