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