UPDATE: The court refused to issue a permanent injunction, meaning defendants can appeal the ruling to an appeals court. Stay tuned for more on this story.
AUBURN, Maine - The Kennebec County Superior Court ruled in favor of Clean Elections candidates Thursday, ordering the state to pay out to candidates who already qualified for these public funds.
Independent State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Terry Hayes is one of nearly 200 candidates running a Clean Elections campaign. Hayes called the ruling “a win for the Maine people.”
“Maine people shouldn’t have to sue their public officials to get them to do their jobs," she added.
"When I’m sworn in as Maine’s next governor, the constant partisan fighting in Augusta will end and those who have the honor and privilege to serve the State of Maine will do their jobs with integrity and civility.”
Hayes officially launched her campaign in October 2017 and qualified for Maine's Clean Elections program earlier this year. The program was initially approved by voters in 1996, but has had some trouble lately because of state politicians in Augusta.
Republican Governor Paul LePage indicated that he would hold up funds already promised to qualifying candidates like Terry Hayes after a typo (literally a minus symbol where there should have been a plus) put the program in jeopardy for the new fiscal year.
A lawsuit was filed, and now the courts have stepped in to unblock existing funds.
It's important to note that running a Clean Elections campaign means that candidates cannot fundraise like a traditional campaign. These campaigns do not take money from special interest groups or PACs or labor unions. Instead, they ask voters to contribute qualifying $5 donations to the Clean Elections Fund. Once they get enough of these donations, they qualify for matching state funds.
The program is popular because it is a way for candidates to show they are putting their communities ahead of moneyed interests.
Terry Hayes had to submit 3,200 Clean Elections contributions to qualify for the program, which she accomplished in April. She unlocked up to $2 million in matching public funds depending on how many Clean Elections contributions she receives.
However, the typo that is preventing additional funds from being added to the Clean Elections program for the new fiscal year has yet to be resolved. Usually, a quick error and omissions bill is passed as soon as the error is identified, but some lawmakers are getting in the way.
Stay tuned for more on this story.