by Seth Koenig, Bangor Daily News
PORTLAND, Maine — A longtime Portland Democrat said Wednesday afternoon she will no longer challenge the state Senate candidacy of Asher Platts, a local Green Independent Party leader.
Anya Trundy, who worked for the Maine Democratic Party for several years before 2010, filed an official challenge with the Maine secretary of state’s office earlier in the week, arguing Platts did not gather enough valid signatures for a spot on the November ballot.
But late Wednesday, just hours after local Green Party representatives began publicly claiming their candidate was the victim of “dirty” political maneuvering, Trundy withdrew her challenge.
“Information has come to light that Asher Platts has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, for that reason and given this new information, I’m withdrawing my request,” Trundy said in a statement distributed by the Maine Democratic Party.
Platts — a writer, podcaster and T-shirt maker who has gained a loyal following under the name “Punk Patriot” — is running against District 27 incumbent Justin Alfond, the Democratic Senate president, and Republican Peter Doyle.
Platts was the only legislative candidate in the state whose petitions to appear on the ballot were challenged, although Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said two challenges were filed in the Washington County sheriff’s race as well.
Platts told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday afternoon he had yet to hear from the secretary of state’s office that the challenge was officially withdrawn. Flynn had tentatively scheduled a hearing about the challenge for 3 p.m. Monday in Augusta.
“I’m not going to pretend to know what their motives were, whether it was more malicious or less malicious,” Platts said of the challenge. “I think it does come across as political bullying. I used to be in the Democratic party, and when I saw this sort of thing happening, it really put a bad taste in my mouth.
“I’ve been prepared to go into the hearing on Monday and defend my petitions. I’m on the ballot legitimately, and I’d like the opportunity to prove that,” he continued. “If she decides to withdraw, that’s fine. I can get back to collecting Clean Elections signatures and talking to voters, which is what I should be doing.”
Earlier on Wednesday, prominent Portland Green party member John Eder told national party news blog GreenPartyWatch.org that the challenge to Platts’ ballot placement was an example of “dirty legal tricks” and “a sure sign of fear by the establishment.”
Eder, a former state lawmaker from Portland who at one time was the nation’s highest elected Green, is now heading Platts’ campaign.
Rachel Irwin, spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party, said all political parties review opponents’ candidacy paperwork for compliance with election guidelines.
“This is a common practice for all parties to review candidate signatures, which are public documents, and upon going through the petitions, we did find that Asher Platts was one with potential disqualifications,” Irwin said.
She said a challenge of a candidate’s signatures must be filed by a resident in that candidate’s district, which Trundy is.
Flynn said Wednesday that candidates for the state Legislature must collect 100 signatures from registered members of their party who reside in their districts to qualify for spots on the ballot.
Platts turned in 102, Flynn said, and Trundy initially challenged three of those signatures — two as being duplicates and one as being from a resident of the neighboring Senate District 28.
“It’s pretty usual for the parties and the candidates to come in and look at the petitions of their opponents, and a lot of times if a candidate only has a couple more signatures [than the limit], they’ll get more scrutiny,” Flynn said. “If they were able to knock off these three names, that would drop him down to 99, which would not be enough [to appear on the ballot].”
Platts on Wednesday afternoon said he successfully defended several of the signatures on his petitions in recent weeks by researching and verifying voter registration cards at Portland City Hall.
“It’s a lot more work as a Green,” he said. “We only make up 4 percent of the vote, so we have to work very hard to find existing Greens or to sign up new Greens.”