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Mike Bloomberg to campaign in Southern Maine, has pushed gun control in Maine for years

Mike Bloomberg with members of the gun control group he founded. Photo courtesy Mike Bloomberg campaign page.

PORTLAND – On Monday, former New York Mayor and Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg will be in Portland and Scarborough for campaign stops. While it may be one of the rare occasions that Bloomberg has physically stepped foot in the state of Maine, his fortune and political beliefs have been the driving force behind gun control efforts here in Maine for years.

In 2016, a state referendum that would have fundamentally altered the way Mainers buy, sell or even loan a firearm to a friend on a hunting trip, was pushed onto the ballot largely with Bloomberg’s financial support. A review of the financial reports of the players in that referendum shows Bloomberg funneled almost all of the $6 million that gun control groups spent in support of the ballot question through various groups.

The ballot question, if successful, would have imposed restrictive new regulations on firearms transfers in Maine. One of the most reviled pieces of the legislation for opponents was a requirement for a Maine gun owner to pay for a federal background check in order to loan a friend a shotgun or rifle on a hunting trip.

Bloomberg’s money dominated the spending in that referendum throughout the 2016 election cycle, but a grassroots group of Mainers passionately fought and defended the rights of gun owners in that campaign. Outspent seven to one, Bloomberg’s opponents defeated his gun control question by almost 30,000 votes. On the same night, Maine voters to award Donald Trump an electoral college vote from Maine’s Second District, creating a historic electoral college split.

While the National Rifle Association was Bloomberg’s biggest opponent on campaign finance reports, the all-volunteer group Gun Owners of Maine stood in the breach, launching a statewide grassroots defense of gun owners from Bloomberg’s millions. That victory put Gun Owners of Maine on the map as Maine’s premier gun rights organization, able to bring dozens or hundreds of gun rights defenders to the capitol on short notice to successfully lobby lawmakers.

Bloomberg’s efforts in Maine would not end with the defeat of the 2016 referendum. Since then, his organizations have maintained a presence, often swarming the Maine State House to advocate for gun control measures or attack politicians who will not support their agenda.

His gun control funding is not exclusive to Maine. Most recently, the Washington Post reported that “unprecedented” amounts of money were flooding Virginia legislative campaigns in early November 2019. That money was largely from groups associated with Bloomberg and resulted in the current legislative majority intent on passing gun control laws, even as tens of thousands of Virginians take to the streets in protest.

On Monday, Bloomberg is coming to Maine to kick-off his state campaign for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The visit comes at a time when Bloomberg is flooding television airwaves across the nation with ads as Senator Bernie Sanders, former VP Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren battle for votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold Presidential contests. Recent polls have shown Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, surging in those early states.

Bloomberg’s play clearly doesn’t rely upon success in the first two states, but instead appears to be focused on success in the states that follow. If he finds success among the states that, like Maine, vote in the Super Tuesday primary, it could damage candidates that are shut out in Iowa in New Hampshire. That could set up some unusual dynamics for the remaining states and the national convention.

While Bloomberg has tried to cast himself as a moderate, his anti-gun stance would appear to be at odds with Maine voters. He has also taken criticism from opponents as a late-entry trying to buy the election by spending hundreds of millions of his own money – dramatically outspending his opposition.

Bloomberg has also taken criticism for comments he made about raising taxes on products he sees as unhealthy. Those taxes, according to the critics, amount to a tax on poor people. In his defense, Bloomberg said he thinks that it is okay, and that by raising taxes on things such as sugary drinks, because “we want the poor to live longer.”

“Michael Bloomberg was a complete embarrassment as mayor, and he has brought those same socialist policies with him on the presidential campaign trail. From his radical stance on the Second Amendment to his attempts to regulate every detail of Americans’ lives, Mainers have already seen and rejected what a Bloomberg presidency would mean for them,” said RNC Spokesperson Nina McLaughlin in a statement about Bloomberg’s visit.

Shortly before announcing the visit to Maine, Bloomberg was endorsed by former Congressman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud.

“In 2020, we need a candidate who can do one thing — beat Donald Trump. Mike Bloomberg is that candidate,” said Michaud in endorsing Bloomberg.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders won the Maine Democratic Party’s Presidential caucuses by a 2-to-1 margin before losing a majority of Maine’s superdelegates at the national convention. In 2019, lawmakers voted to return Maine’s process from a caucus to statewide primary election.