BANGOR — Sherman Hutchins supports Republican Kevin Raye in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race because of a personal policy.
“I vote for the most conservative person I think can win,” said the Republican state convention delegate and former legislator from the town of Penobscot.
But as passer-by Paula Smith heard that, the Bruce Poliquin supporter and chairwoman of Republicans in Andover, piped up.
“I don’t,” she said. “Mr. Poliquin’s good with the money and I don’t support abortion.”
And that made up much of the battle between the pro-choice Raye, the former Maine Senate president from Perry, and Poliquin, the anti-abortion ex-state treasurer, on Saturday morning at the biennial Republican state convention at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The winner in the June 10 primary will face one of the two Democrats running for that party’s nomination, state Sen. Emily Cain of Orono and Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, as well as likely independent hopeful Blaine Richardson of Belfast.
At an event where Republicans tried to mend wounds with disparate wings of their party after a messy 2012 dispute over presidential preference, Raye and Poliquin, locked in the GOP’s only high-profile primary, took clear verbal shots at each other in back-to-back speeches.
In typical fashion, Poliquin derided “career politicians” onstage. Raye worked for ex-U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, before serving in the Maine Senate for eight years and running twice unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud – in 2002 and 2012.
“We have too many career politicians looking first to get re-elected,” Poliquin said. “They work to put themselves ahead of real people.”
Raye played up his roots in the district. Poliquin, born and raised in Waterville, recently moved to Oakland from Georgetown, where he has a large, coastal home. Raye’s campaign has attacked him as an outsider.
“For me, the 2nd district isn’t just a convenient place to use as a political launching pad, it is home,” Raye said.
In another jab, Raye exclaimed, “I actually have won elections!” In two tries for statewide office – for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2012 – Poliquin came up short in primaries.
However, Poliquin hit Raye for releasing November poll results showing him up on Poliquin, Cain and Jackson. In Raye’s 2012 bid against Michaud, he released a poll days before the election showing him just ahead of Michaud, but ended up losing the election by 16 points.
“It is time for us to stop the spin,” he said. “It is time for us to tell the truth.”
Raye didn’t discuss his stance on abortion, but Poliquin used it as a wedge, saying the death of his first wife in a 1992 accident affirmed his anti-abortion position.
But both also boosted usual conservative causes, throwing red meat to the party faithful, hitting President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to say it hurt the nation’s health care system and supporting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of western Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The candidates emphasized their records, with Raye touting conservative legislative achievements as Senate president who worked with both parties and Poliquin portraying himself as a fiscal watchdog who rooted out waste as treasurer and would do the same if elected.
Felix Blinn, a delegate from Brownville who joined the group of supporters that welcomed Poliquin to the stage, said he made his decision to support Poliquin at the convention on Friday, after talking with representatives of both candidates.
The speeches affirmed his choice, he said.
“One guy’s saying he wants to fix things and one guy’s saying he wants to fix more things,” Blinn said. “I support the guy who’s going to fix more things.”
But Trevor Hold of Pembroke, wearing a Raye shirt, said the candidate he backs has a better chance to get elected to the seat than Poliquin does. To boot, Raye has represented Hold at the state level.
“You can tell your side to Kevin; he’ll process it and have a conversation about it,” he said. “I’m three steps to the right of Kevin, but I know he can get there, do the job and get it done.”
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at: