SAM is one of Maine’s largest special interest groups and represents sportsmen, firearm owners, and conservationists across the state. The non-profit is dedicated to defending gun rights and the interests of hunters and outdoorsmen.
The organization’s largest project this year is to defeat Question 1 on the November ballot, which is a referendum to outlaw Maine’s traditional methods for managing the bear population.
Although SAM chose not to endorse any candidates, the group did release a scorecard grading the candidates on their positions regarding firearm owners, hunters, and conservationists. The scores are based on candidates’ self-stated positions as well as a questionnaire provided by SAM.
Republicans Gov. Paul LePage and Second Congressional District candidate Bruce Poliquin received top scores, while no candidate earned less than a “B”.
LePage received the highest score of all gubernatorial candidates. According to a press release, the group was impressed with LePage’s record in office, including his support for the Second Amendment and his leadership on the upcoming bear referendum in November.
“Governor LePage is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the rights of law abiding citizens to own firearms,” SAM said in the press release. “He has stated he will veto any legislation he deems an infringement on the Second Amendment, and he did so during his first 4-years as governor.”
In response, LePage campaign spokesman Alex Willette said, “The Governor is very proud to have received the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s top score, and is very appreciative of the support of so many great sportsmen across Maine in his reelection campaign.”
Willette also said LePage’s gubernatorial opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, had recently changed positions on issues affecting sportsmen. The SAM score sheet notes Rep. Michaud’s recent position in support of requiring background checks for private firearm sales as the main factor as to why he did not receive an A grade. Michaud had won the organization’s endorsement when running for office District 2’s U.S. Representative.
Elliot Cutler, an Independent candidate for governor, received a B grade, the lowest score of the three contenders. While the group commended Cutler as “a strong advocate for conservation, land preservation and an advocate for the proper funding of wildlife programs,” they disagreed with his support of a National Park in Millinocket and his position on background checks for private firearm sales.
All three gubernatorial candidates are members of SAM.
In the race for the First District seat, U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree did not respond to requests from SAM, and therefore received no grade. Both Republican candidate Isaac Misiuk and independent candidate Richard Murphy received A grades. While the group noted the lack of a record for either individual, they believed that both would support the interests of SAM’s members.
In the Second District, both Republican candidate Bruce Poliquin and independent candidate Blaine Richardson received A grades. Democratic nominee Senator Emily Cain received a B rating.
Neither U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins nor her opponent Shenna Bellows was graded by the organization. Neither candidate responded to SAM’s questionnaire or request for an interview.
SAM has shown reluctance endorsing candidates for office in the past. In 2012, the group declined to endorse in the Second Congressional District race and the U.S. Senate race. The only candidate to receive an endorsement was Jon Courtney, then a candidate for U.S. Representative in the First Congressional District.