AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — While the U.S. Senate race and other high-profile contests dominate Maine’s campaign scene, advocates for the four bond issues on the Nov. 6 ballot are quietly working behind the scenes to get the support of voters.
‘‘There isn’t a lot of money going around to go into the bond campaign side because it’s all going to the candidate side,’’ Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, which is supporting all four borrowing proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot, said Wednesday.
So groups such as the chamber, which alone represents 5,000 businesses, are relying on the Web, networking with like-minded groups and taking traditional approaches such as public speaking engagements to get their views across to voters.
The race for Maine’s open Senate seat and the same-sex marriage question at the top of the referendum ballot are drawing most of the attention and millions of dollars in advertising in the run-up to the election, with two congressional races and the battle for control of the Legislature also absorbing finances and energy.
That has overshadowed the $76 million bond package. In the order in which they'll appear on the ballot, they include $11.3 million for capital improvements for the University of Maine System, community college system and Maine Maritime Academy; $5 million to purchase land and conservation easements; $51.5 million for highways, bridges and other transportation projects, and $7.9 million for public drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities.
‘‘It is a modest package,’’ said Connors. ‘‘The majority part of it is for infrastructure needs, which strengthen the economy.’’
The Mid Maine Chamber of Commerce, however, is opposing the two borrowing proposals for improvements for state higher education systems and for water and sewer upgrades, saying passage ‘‘would place Maine further into debt at a time when Maine taxpayers are least able to bear the additional burden.’’
The Waterville-based chamber is, however, supporting the transportation bond, saying, ‘‘The current state of disrepair of many of our state’s roads and bridges impedes the flow of commerce and has a negative impact on our economy.’’ The group took no position on the $5 million bond for land conservation.
Also supporting the ballot’s largest bond proposal is the Maine Better Transportation Association, which has a website (www.keepmainemoving.org) and a coalition of about 15 groups that will use their own information networks to advocate for passage. The other coalition members range from TrainRiders Northeast to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, Eastport Port Authority and LifeFlight Maine, said Maria Fuentes, executive director of the Better Transportation Association.
The 14,000-member Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine is actively supporting the land conservation bond, said Executive Director David Trahan. SAM is using its own publication and mailing list to promote the $5 million bond, which would provide water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, farmland and working waterfront preservation opportunities. It is also networking with other conservation groups, said Trahan.
SAM sees the land bond as an extension of state-backed efforts to rebuild Maine’s deer herd by expanding its habitat.
Gov. Paul LePage, who has sought to roll back state debt and even vetoed a $20 million research and development bond proposal sent to him by the Legislature, has been absent from bond campaign.
‘‘He is not a proponent of adding debt. He feels it’s something Mainers cannot afford right now,’’ said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.