Sticky-sweet pastries and black bears have become wild cards in Maine's elections next week.
Residents of the state will vote on a ballot initiative Tuesday that would ban hunters from using dogs, traps, and junk food like jelly doughnuts and cold pizza to bait bears.
The referendum has become a hot-button issue. The Humane Society and other animal-rights activists say the ban would end what they consider to be cruel practices. But hunting groups and the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife say a ban would spur a dangerous boom in the bear population and devastate the economy in areas of Maine that see an influx of tourism during hunting season.
The controversy could have an especially powerful impact on the gubernatorial race. Political analysts say the ballot initiative may boost conservative voter turnout during an extremely close contest for the Maine governor's mansion. And that, analysts say, might deliver a reelection win to Republican Paul LePage, who has been locked in a tight race with Democratic challenger Michael Michaud for months.
"This issue could drive people to the polls who might not otherwise vote, in particular blue-collar, single men. People who are likely to be LePage supporters," said Andy Smith, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.