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Conservative Challenger To Susan Collins: Wife Beating Conviction Shows My ‘Guts And Integrity’

Facepalm

A Tea Party challenger in Maine has a unique spin on the fact that he was once convicted of committing an act of domestic violence against his wife:

Erick Bennett, a conservative Portland consultant who has launched a Republican primary campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, says his experience with the justice system — which he obtained when he was convicted of domestic violence assault 10 years ago — is driving him toward what he calls a “pro-family” agenda.

Bennett held a news conference Monday in Portland, during which he talked about his campaign, the domestic violence conviction, and controversy over his self-described role as a staffer for Gov. Paul LePage’s 2010 campaign — a role that others in LePage’s campaign team said Bennett never played.

Republican power players in Maine, including state GOP Chairman Rick Bennett — no relation — have distanced themselves from the primary hopeful, who they say is not a credible primary challenger.

Erick Bennett deflected those comments Monday, saying he’s had invitations to speak with several GOP county caucuses ahead of the 2014 primary.

“The majority of the state party, at this point, is worried about their meal ticket losing and the people actually getting someone that’s going to represent them,” he said. “I think that’s where their opposition is coming from.”

Bennett was convicted of Class D assault in a 2003 District Court ruling after attacking his wife. The two since have divorced.

He fought the conviction until 2004, when it was affirmed by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled  that “the court did not commit clear error or abuse its discretion in excluding irrelevant evidence at trial,” and that “sufficient evidence does exist in the record to support his conviction.”

Still, Bennett claims he is innocent and said the justice system is stacked against alleged attackers in domestic violence cases. When asked about his specific case, he said he was “railroaded” by the court after declining to accept a plea agreement.

“All that needs to be done is you have to repeat what you wrote down in the police report and that allows the victim to be viewed as a credible witness,” he said. “So basically, if someone writes something down, it doesn’t have to be true. All they have to do is repeat that on the stand. … That’s grounds for anyone to be convicted of domestic violence.”

Bennett said Collins had supported laws that made it easier for victims to obtain convictions, but would not give any specific examples of which laws. He said he could provide specific information at a later date.

Bennett has, well, distinguished himself quite a lot during the past month to the point where the Maine GOP seems to be dismissing him out of hand:

Bennett’s comments fuel growing Republican unease with his candidacy. He posted aslew of offensive Facebook comments in December, including one calling Rep. Mike Michaud (D- Maine) a “closet homo.”

“I find those comments personally reprehensible, and I’ve heard people from across the political spectrum in Maine who share their abhorrence with those views,” GOP Chairman Rick Bennett, who is not related to the primary challenger, told Bangor Daily News last month, referring to the Facebook posts. “They do not represent the views of the Republican Party.

“I would be surprised if he gets a sufficient number of Republicans in Maine to sign nomination papers to put him on the ballot,” the GOP chairman added.

Collins hasn’t had a serious primary challenger since she was first elected to the Senate in 1996, and it looks like she’ll continue that streak this year.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    If the Tea Party insists on promoting loons like Bennett, and somehow prevails over the saner Republicans, I’d say the Democratic Party will have no worries in 2014 and 2016.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    Drink the Tea……… :))

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. Pinky says:

    Just spent 15 minutes trying to find Tea Party endorsements for this guy…couldn’t find any. I might’ve missed them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. KM says:

    All that needs to be done is you have to repeat what you wrote down in the police report and that allows the victim to be viewed as a credible witness,” he said. “So basically, if someone writes something down, it doesn’t have to be true. All they have to do is repeat that on the stand

    Soooo…. consistency of testimony is a bad thing? What a marvelous legal expertise and logical mindset this man has to offer! Just what you need in a politician….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  5. Grumpy Realist says:

    Wonderful. The next thing he’ll say will make obvious he’s a MRA type who thinks that beating your wife is fine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The cabinet blacked her eyes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Tillman says:

    The dude’s obviously a spoiler for someone with his exact set of views but without past convictions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Stonetools says:

    DearTea Party ,

    Good work! Keep it up, not only in Maine but across the country!

    Signed,
    Democratic Party National Committee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  9. CSK says:

    @Tillman:

    She doesn’t appear, yet, to have any other Republican challenger. She’s always been a formidable campaigner; she’s come out on top in eight-way and four-way primary races.

    Bennett, given his penchant for topless selfies, appears to be in this for the publicity, and maybe to try and convince people that he was the innocent party in the domestic violence case. Good luck with that one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. rudderpedals says:

    She couldn’t have hired a better primary opponent if she tried.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. Tano says:

    To be fair, he did not say that his conviction showed his guts and integrity. He claimed that his fight against his conviction did so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Erick Bennett, a conservative Portland consultant who has launched a Republican primary campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, says his experience with the justice system — which he obtained when he was convicted of domestic violence assault 10 years ago — is driving him toward what he calls a “pro-family” agenda.

    Seriously, fiction writers have it tough these days. You just can’t compete with non-fiction any more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @al-Ameda: So beating up your wife is now considered “pro-family”?

    Yup, we got a live one here. The other side must be howling in laughter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Tillman says:

    @al-Ameda: There’s a reason fantasy and sci-fi are booming nowadays.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0