While almost all of the attention of this campaign season has been focused on Maine’s U.S. Senate race, there are two other races underway for two Congressional seats.
In the 1st District, Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree is being challenged by a Republican newcomer to politics. Dr. Jay Allen is a family physician who spent 20 years in the military and is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump.
“The key issue, from my perspective, is that this masking policy is not necessary.”
That was Jay Allen addressing rally-goers in Augusta this summer who oppose the mask-wearing policies pushed by Gov. Janet Mills as a way to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Allen also wants to see restrictions on Maine businesses eased in order to soften the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do not have the numbers to justify keeping businesses closed. We have seen some reopening, but there are so many restrictions on those businesses that just don’t make sense.”
Allen supports the extensive testing programs being funded by the federal government. At the same time, he is critical of some of the deficit spending passed by Congress to help unemployed workers and their families, such as the bonus unemployment benefit of $600 a week.
“We should not be sponsoring a program that encourages people not to work. We should encourage people to work. It was beneficial for those people let go from jobs or furloughed for a time.”
Allen said that after some businesses started to reopen, they had trouble getting employees to return to work because they were getting more money from the bonus unemployment program than they earned at their old jobs. As a fiscal conservative, Allen says he is worried about the fallout of the huge increase in deficit spending for pandemic relief.
“We have not been as fiscally responsible as we should be. We have raised borrowing, even during this administration, and that is one thing that is going to really hurt us in the long run.”
Allen says the increasing amount of interest that will have to be paid on the national debt will prevent spending on other needs like the military. He also supports other traditional Republican bread and butter issues, including defense of the second amendment.
But while his position on these issues may appeal to many conservative voters, Allen is not gaining traction when it comes to raising money for his campaign. Nor has he received the kind of financial backing from the GOP that other Republican candidates typically receive. In the last campaign finance filing, he had raised just $42,000, compared to the $315,000 raised by Pingree. In addition to sparse resources, Allen may have to buck another trend.
“I increasingly wonder if you can even get elected as a Republican in Maine’s 1st Congressional District anymore,” says Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine.
“Every cycle that District becomes more reliably Democratic and more aligned with the progressive wing of the Democratic party.”
University of Maine at Farmington professor Jim Melcher agrees with Brewer that the District is probably too liberal to elect a conservative like Allen. And he says that without considerable financial resources, Allen will not be able to get his message through to voters given the competition from ads in the Presidential race and the record-breaking expenditures in Maine’s U.S. Senate race.
Originally published at 3:56 p.m. Sept. 17, 2020.