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Maine 2nd District Contest Shaping up as Poliquin Enters Race
08/26/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Maine's field of candidates to succeed Democratic 2nd District Congressman Michael Michaud became more crowded today, after former Republican state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin confirmed that he intends to file nomination papers with the Federal Elections Commission. Poliquin's entry into the race creates a GOP primary that would include three - and potentially five - Republicans who would like to retake the seat for their party after a drought that's lasted nearly 20 years. As A.J. Higgins has more.

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Maine 2nd District Contest Shaping up as Poliquin Listen

The former Republican state treasurer - and loyal ally of Gov. Paul LePage - chose to announce his entry into the race during the George Hale - Ric Tyler Show on WVOM. The Bangor-based show is popular with conservative Mainers, but the station airwaves also reach much of the far-flung 2nd Congressional District.

State Republican Party Chair Rick Bennett says Poliquin's decision to become a candidate ensures a there will be plenty of spirited debate. "Well, Bruce has proven himself to be a very high-energy person," Bennett says.

Poliquin currently resides in the 1st District, but owns property in Oakland, where he plans to return as he embarks upon his 2nd District run. Although he does not live in the 2nd District - nor he is required to under FEC rules - Poliquin emphasized his central Maine roots on the morning radio talk show, along with his political background.

No stranger to politics, Poliquin campaigned against Paul LePage in a 2010 Republican seven-way primary. He spent more than $700,000 of his own money, finishing in sixth place before going on to endorse LePage. Poliquin was also an unsuccessful GOP primary candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that opened up with the retirement of Olympia Snowe last year. He finished second in that six-way primary.

Now, his entry into the 2nd District contest would force a primary with assistant House Minority Leader Alex Willette, of Mapleton, and Blaine Richardson, a Belfast resident who ran an unsuccessful primary bid for the seat last year. And the field could become larger if former Bucksport state Sen. Richard Rosen or former state Senate President Kevin Raye, of Perry, get into the race.

Despite predictions by some political analysts that the district's conservative Republicans may favor Poliquin, Bennett says that remains to be seen. "Certainly his positions on critical issues, personality, experience - I mean, it's a very personal campaign, running in a primary," Bennett says.

"Bruce Poliquin is a guy who hasn't got the message from Maine voters - even among his own party," says Maine Democratic Party Chair Ben Grant.

Grant says some Republicans are apt to view Poliquin as a wealthy southern Mainer who's trying to buy his way into a district where he has no roots.

With incumbent 2nd District Congressman Michael Michaud running for governor in 2014, a number of Democrats are already in the race to succeed him, including state Sen. Emily Cain, of Orono; Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, of Allagash, and former Navy officer Alden Smith, of Sangerville.

Grant says if Poliquin chooses to self-finance his campaign, it's a strategy that's likely to backfire in the 2nd District - a place that the GOP conservative has not called home for a long time.

"I think, ultimately, the issues of does he really connect with people, does he understand people's lives in areas that he's never really been in, or lived near or campaigned in - I think those are issues that will probably plague him throughout," Grant says. "I just put a little thing up on Facebook this morning and I said that we're eagerly awaiting which town he's going to select as his hometown in which he can hang his carpet bag."

Colby College Political Science Professor Sandy Maisel says a large field of GOP candidates does not bode well for Poliquin. "I don't see him catching fire," Maisel says, "but this a guy who clearly wants to do public service, and he has the financial ability and the time to try to do it."

Calls made to Poliquin for comment by MPBN were not returned by air time.


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