The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), headed by Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.), is promoting its party’s female Senate challengers as a focal point in its 2012 efforts, but at least one prominent Democratic woman is being left out: Maine state senator Cynthia Dill has not received any funding or statements of support from the DSCC.
Insiders told the Washington Free Beacon that national Democrats may have already agreed to a deal with independent Senate candidate Angus King, a former governor, to caucus with the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate if elected, rendering Dill’s candidacy a potential vote-splitter in what would likely be a three-way general election race.
King—currently the subject of a Congressional Oversight Committee report questioning a government loan he received—maintains to voters and the press that he will retain party independence in Washington, even choosing one Republican and one Democratic aide for his campaign.
National Journal reported Monday that Dill, described as a "long-shot" in a potential race against King and a Republican nominee, has launched an online petition on signon.org demanding that King make his allegiances clear. "Sign this petition if you want to know who Angus King will choose to lead U.S. Senate, Reid or McConnell," Dill tweeted Saturday.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) sent out a public memo to Dill Tuesday encouraging the candidate to seek fundraising support from the DSCC.
"As you move forward with your campaign, I'm sure you will often hear the complaint that there is too much partisanship in Washington. Our candidates hear this as well," NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer wrote in the memo. "So in the spirit of bipartisanship, we wanted to share fundraising information that has been useful for other Democratic Senate candidates as well."
The memo provided Dill with information on the DSCC’s fundraising efforts for other female candidates. Among the four Democratic primary candidates who have filed, Dill is the only woman.
National Journal reported Tuesday that the NRSC sent the memo with "tongues firmly planted in cheek."
Dill told the Free Beacon, "I certainly appreciate the little bit of humor that was intended."
Despite the lack of DSCC support, Dill maintained that she is not "down and out."
"The people of Maine don’t need any Washington group to tell them who to vote for, or which candidate to support" Dill said, though she maintains that she's still hoping for DSCC funding. "I would welcome any contribution. I'm in session five days a week. I'm a working mother. So is it going to be a great fundraising quarter for me? Probably not."
"I have not spoken to Patty Murray," Dill said.
She added, with a laugh, "I’ve actually had more communication with Republicans."
Murray has said 2012 will be a historic year for women in the United States Senate. "I have found great candidates in our women this year," she announced at a press briefing in December 2011, praising the electoral viability of Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), Rep. Shelley Berkley (D., Nev.), Rep. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii), North Dakota attorney general Heidi Heitkamp, and Elizabeth Warren—three of whom, Baldwin, Berkley, and Hirono, joined her for part of the briefing. Hirono and Berkley are both running in contested primaries.
The DSCC endorsed all five of these candidates early in their primary campaigns; Hirono has received $20,000 from the DSCC in this cycle; Berkley has received $43,100; and Heitkamp has received $20,000.
In November 2011, Sen. Barbara Boxer announced the creation of the Win With Women 2012 Political Action Committee, with the stated goal of helping the number of women in the U.S. Senate pass 20. Democratic challengers Heitkamp, Warren, Baldwin, Hirono, and Berkley are all being supported by Boxer’s PAC; Dill has yet to receive any campaign funds from Boxer’s PAC.
NRSC spokesman Lance Trover told the Free Beacon, "The radio silence from Senate Democrats regarding Cynthia Dill's candidacy suggests two things—first, that their ‘year of the woman’ rhetoric only applies when it's politically expedient, and second, Democrats in Washington know more about Angus King's intentions than voters in Maine do."
On Mar. 6, Politico reported that Rob Jesmer, executive director of the NRSC, suspected a "backroom deal" between King and Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with King promising to caucus with the Democratic Party if elected.
Reid denied the allegation, stating, "I’ve never spoken with anybody named Angus."
An insider close to the Maine political scene doubted Reid’s denial, saying, "I think there must have been a deal. Two sitting Democratic members of Congress and a former Democratic governor took out papers to run, and then decided not to."
National Democrats may fear the strength of Republican opposition for the seat, or a repeat of past election results. In 2010, Republican Paul LePage won the Maine gubernatorial election with just 38 percent of the vote, while independent candidate Eliot Cutler received 37 percent and Democrat Libby Mitchell finished third with 19 percent.
Dill does not believe the "backroom deal" theory. "You’d have to ask Harry (Reid) about that," she said. "I doubt it. In my view, those are conspiracies that Republicans are promoting. In terms of Angus King, I would look at his record as governor. I know that he vetoed a minimum wage law."
King is also facing allegations of corruption.
TheMaineWire.com reported that a Congressional Oversight Committee called into question a $102 million loan guarantee granted to a wind energy company co-founded by King.
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform released a report one day after King divested in Independence Wind, LLC.
The report, dated Mar. 20 and entitled "The Department of Energy’s Disastrous Management of Loan Guarantee Programs," stated that the Department of Energy (DOE) approved a 2011 loan guarantee to Independence Wind for its "Record Hill" project, based on the project’s use of "innovative technology," a requirement for receiving such a loan.
But, according to the report, "DOE knew that the Record Hill project did not use significantly innovative technology … the Record Hill Wind project attempted to categorize minor modifications to existing commercial technology as ‘innovativeness.’ DOE eventually agreed with Record Hill Wind’s questionable reasoning."
Congressional investigators contacted King’s wind company, via an official letter, days before the report was released, notifying him that an investigation was underway. The letter was reportedly sent two days before King conducted interviews discussing his decision to divest in Independence Wind, and six days before his campaign claims King was made aware of the investigation.
Dill said her campaign is "not presently" conducting opposition research on King. "I’m not focused on Angus King so much," she said. "Right now, I’m just trying to get my message out as the only progressive Democratic woman in the race."
She said she is not certain why the DSCC has not pledged its support.
The DSCC did not return calls for comment.
"It’s probably because there are four excellent Democratic candidates, and we still have a lot of time to demonstrate viability," Dill said. She has spoken at least once with the communications director at the DSCC, and describes their conversation as "positive and productive."
According to Dill, "Voters are going to vote based on the issues, not based on who’s the most popular person at the prom."