Political focus shifting north

Bruce Poliquin. BDN photo by Brian Feulner

Bruce Poliquin. BDN photo by Brian Feulner

For much of the summer — indeed, almost since the day of the June primaries — the race for Maine’s open 2nd Congressional District has flown under the radar. The attention of the state’s politicos and media have mostly been focused on the gubernatorial race, where the two leading candidates have been locked in a dead heat. Ignoring the congressional race is a mistake, though. As the temperatures drop, and summer slips into autumn, the race between Bruce Poliquin and Emily Cain is heating up, and will demand more of our attention.

This began in earnest recently, after Poliquin literally called on unenrolled candidate Blaine Richardson to withdraw. This rare, direct conversation between rivals (along with the recent release of an internal poll from Poliquin showing a statistical tie between he and Cain) refocused our interest on the state’s 2nd District, as well it should. Not only is an open congressional seat a rare thing in Maine, the 2nd District is being nationally targeted as a competitive seat by both parties.

This race is a departure from the norm for the district, though, in a variety of ways. The previous Democrats who won the seat highlighted their experience outside of politics. Both John Baldacci and Mike Michaud emphasized their private sector background and working-class backgrounds, regardless of whether it was reality or merely convenient rhetoric. Cain, having spent her career in the public sector as a legislator and working for the University of Maine, doesn’t have this option. Instead, she has to turn her history as a statehouse insider to her advantage of its own accord — a much more challenging task.

She has also made her liberal views — which align more closely to Chellie Pingree than any other member of the congressional delegation — quite plain. She hasn’t picked a few issues on which to rebel and establish a moderate profile, as previous Democrats have. Instead, she’s eagerly racked up endorsements from liberal special interest groups, making it clear where she would be on the political spectrum in the U.S. House.

Poliquin, like those who’ve run in the district before in both parties, has an extensive background in the private sector. He understands the impact of taxes and regulations from firsthand experience, not as some academic concept. That business background has given him an appreciation for the sacred trust that is involved when you are in charge of other people’s money, and he’ll apply that same fiscal discipline when he represents us in Washington.

Unlike in previous campaigns, there are a number of sharp contrasts in this election. We don’t have two legislators squaring off, trying to turn their Augusta connections into a seat in Congress. Instead, we have one candidate with extensive experience in the private sector and another with virtually none. We have one candidate who declared that her caucus hated the largest tax cut in state history, and another who worked with the governor and Legislature to usher them through.

It’s important that we pay close attention to this race, not just for today, but the future. The 2nd District has historically served as the launchpad for statewide politicians from both parties. Indeed, in recent years, Angus King is the only successful candidate for statewide office who didn’t live in the 2nd District.

So, with this race coming more to the forefront, apply a little Maine common sense as you cut through the noise. Don’t let out-of-state special interests tell you how to vote. Don’t buy in to the spin. Don’t elevate 30 years of failed policies in Maine to Congress. Instead, give Maine an experienced voice for fiscal responsibility.

We owe it to not only the district, but the state and the country, to make sure we make a responsible decision.

Jim Fossel

About Jim Fossel

Originally from Alna, Jim Fossel has volunteered with a number of campaigns over the years, including for Peter Mills for Governor in 2006. He previously worked for U.S. Senator Susan Collins and House Republican Leader Josh Tardy.