Maine Dem Dill: I haven’t spoken to party leaders in months

Maine Democrat Cynthia Dill is rare among her fellow Democratic candidates in that her run for Senate is entirely independent of the national party.

But that’s not by choice.

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Dill hasn’t received the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and she doesn’t have the financial or technical backing of the party. Though DSCC chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has said Democrats would be monitoring the race, they’ve offered no indication that they’ll be investing funds in Dill’s bid, though they did recently enter the race with attacks on Republican candidate Charlie Summers.

Dill says she spoke briefly with Murray in June after she earned the Democratic nomination, but that was the last time.

“I talked to Patty Murray. We had a very nice conversation, and she said she was going to monitor the race,” Dill said in an interview with The Hill.

“I take her at her word, that she is monitoring the race and that they'll call me if they” change their minds, Dill added, but admitted that, since that conversation with Murray, she had not heard from the national party.

The Democratic Party has remained mum on Dill’s bid largely to avoid siphoning off votes from former Gov. Angus King, who is running as an independent but is expected to caucus with Democrats if he wins.

But King has not yet shown his hand on which party he’ll caucus with, and though he supported John Kerry in 2004 and President Obama in 2008, he’s also suggested he’d be willing to join Republicans if they win the majority this fall.

That’s brought fire from Maine Democrats, with Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant penning an editorial in the Portland Press Herald questioning King’s true intentions.

Dill does have the backing of Democrats in the state. The state party has endorsed her, and Maine Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud’s PAC and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) have both contributed $1,000 to her campaign.

Absent funds from national Democrats, however, Dill has launched a largely grassroots operation, issuing no expensive television ads and launching no high-profile bus tours of the state. Instead, she’s driven thousands of miles in her car to engage with voters on a local level, a strategy she thinks will pay off.

“There’s all this money flying around and it’s, I think, causing people to glaze over and not pay attention to advertising and instead pay attention to the candidate who was at their town hall or they saw at the grocery store or they saw, you know, at their basketball game,” she said.

Thus far, Republican groups have spent over $2.1 million on the race in attacks on King, compared to the DSCC’s $389,000 — but the Democratic group recently bought $1.7 million more in airtime from Oct. 9 through the election, largely to hammer Republican candidate Charlie Summers.

Dill, in comparison, has only the money she’s raised to back her bid — just over $100,000 at the end of June, and a little more than $28,000 cash on hand. She’s said before that she doesn’t expect to raise much more than $150,000 over the course of her campaign, and she admitted that the lack of party support had made fundraising tough.

“If the national Democratic campaign was supporting me, that would be a signal to other national groups that would make fundraising easier,” she said.

If nothing else, those funds would help Dill get out her message — in a mid-September poll, more than a third of Maine voters were still unsure of how they felt about the candidate.

In that, and every other poll of the race since mid-September, Dill has never passed 15 percent support, and posted 12 percent support in the most recent poll. But it’s in the GOP’s best interest if her support grows at the expense of King’s, leaving an opening for Summers to break though, and so outside GOP groups have largely stayed away from Dill — with the exception of one, which ran positive spots about Dill calling her a “Democrat you can feel good about.”

Dill was dismissive of the idea that her candidacy could mean a win for Summers and insisted she’d be staying in the race till the end.

“Charlie Summers is not going to get elected to the United States Senate. He's an extremist who has a track record of losing elections so I'm not going to even predict that outcome,” she said.

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