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Dems, GOP Senate candidate spar over immigration tweet

October 29, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democrats in Maine sparred Monday with a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate over a tweet that said leftists are importing new voters from other countries to try to win elections.

State Sen. Eric Brakey is running against incumbent independent Sen. Angus King and Democrat Zak Ringelstein. Brakey tweeted on Sunday that the left has “failed at selling socialism to the American people” and its new tactic is “mass importation of new voters to transform our political culture.”

Democrats decried the tweet on Monday as racist and anti-immigrant. Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett called it “bigotry,” and Ringelstein said Brakey should withdraw from the race.

“This is more anti-immigrant rhetoric from Republicans who can’t run on their own records,” Bartlett said.

Brakey pushed back at accusations that the tweet was racist, saying America’s immigration system isn’t “a poverty relief program.” He’s a two-term state senator from Auburn who has prioritized issues such as limiting government powers, protecting gun rights and implementing an “America first” immigration policy.

Attempts to “brand anyone who opposes open borders as ‘racist’ is not constructive and only stifles the important dialogue we need to have on this issue,” Brakey said.

The Maine Republican Party defended Brakey’s statement. He was illustrating that countries “have borders for good reasons,” said Nina McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the party.

“Eric was making a point about how our immigration system can only bear so much weight, yet liberals are always pushing to add more and more weight at taxpayer expense,” she said.

Polling shows King, who caucuses with Democrats and enjoys high favorability ratings with Maine voters, as likely to win re-election in the first ranked-choice Senate race in U.S. history.

The three candidates were scheduled to participate in a televised debate Monday night.

“People are grieving from the events in Pittsburgh, now’s not the time for divisive comments, let’s focus on what unites us,” said Jack Faherty, a King spokesman, about two hours before the debate was scheduled to start.

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This story has been corrected to show that a statement that had been erroneously attributed to Sen. Angus King was actually from his spokesman.

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