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Misleading 'defund the police' political ads pop up in rural Maine

The ads say "Vote Troy Jackson, Defund the Police," but Senate President Jackson said his political philosophy is the opposite.

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — In order to see who is behind the recent roadside ads targeting Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, you'd probably have to pull over and get out of your car.

"Vote Troy Jackson, Defund the Police," the ad states.

While many see the national talking point as a strong take from the democratic senate president, the ads are actually paid for by the Maine Republican Party.

President Jackson says the statement claiming he supports divesting from law enforcement is not true.

"It pisses me off, even though I wasn't shocked to see it in the end. You're kind of shocked they would go that low on a flat out lie... in rural Maine, we don't have enough law enforcement," he said.

Jackson says people likely aren't looking at the fine print where you can see the Maine Republican Party pays for the ads, which could sway voters.

"I don't expect this will be the last thing, but we're going to see more [expletive] as it goes on," Jackson said.

Maine Republican Party's Executive Director Jason Savage did not point to a specific part of Jackson's platform that shows he would advocate for divesting from law enforcement agencies.

He instead referred to an organization "The States Project" which is related to the group "Future Action Now," which outlined a study about re-investing and money within police departments two years ago.

The States Project vice president of communications told NEWS CENTER Maine the organization does not, and has not, supported defunding the police.

State Representative Sue Bernard is a Republican running against Jackson. She refused to interview with NEWS CENTER Maine. Her team instead referred to a statement that the signs are not paid for as a part of her campaign.

Political analysts are weighing in as well. Philip Harriman served on the Maine Senate and is now a reoccurring guest on NEWS CENTER Maine's Political Brew.

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He says these are the same tactics used in 2020 when Democrat Sarah Gideon ran against Susan Collins.

"What I understand, the Republicans used this campaign tactic, reaching far to say [Jackson is] for defunding police.. his voting record doesn't show that," Harriman said. "I think it's going to backfire, I do. Presumably, they will take the signs down and you won't see them in other senate races around the state."

Harriman adds that Maine is an easy target for outside spenders.

"When you think about Maine, it's a relatively small cost to influence the outcome of the election... it's relatively inexpensive compared to say, California, where it's expensive to influence campaigns," Harriman said.

Ken Altshuler is also on NEWS CENTER Maine's Political Brew and says that the use of false and misleading advertisements is a slippery slope.

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"All is fair in love and politics, but when it's false and misleading, that's a lie. You don't go there," Altshuler said. "Those kinds of misleading campaigns have an impact... because people don't go beyond headlines."

Altshuler and Harriman suggested more misleading, and even false, advertisements will be appearing in Maine elections as November approaches.

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