EASTPORT — Democratic 2nd District hopeful Emily Cain walked into the senior center Wednesday, just before the regulars in this Down East island city had their weekly spaghetti lunch.

It was 89-year-old Amelia Frankland who first locked on to her, telling Cain, a 34-year-old state senator from Orono, in a grandmotherly fashion that she’s “such a good-looking girl” and then promising the candidate her vote.

“I don’t know a thing about Emily,” said Frankland, a Republican. “It’s that she’s a good-looking girl and I told her I’d vote for her. That’s all it took.”

Getting a vote can be that easy, so Cain and her Republican opponent, Bruce Poliquin, are making their final pushes to see as many voters as possible before Tuesday’s election, alongside long-shot independent Blaine Richardson of Belfast. The three are competing to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat running for governor.

To most Maine political observers, the Cain-Poliquin race is second in importance to the hotly contested governor’s race among Michaud, Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler. But the race in the 2nd District could be a nail-biter.

A poll released last week by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram showed Poliquin up by 1 percentage point in the district, which leans Democratic but less so than the rest of Maine. However, another poll released two days later showed Cain up by a point. Respectively, the surveys said 9 percent and 16 percent of respondents were undecided.

Before the sun rose Thursday, Poliquin, 60, a former state treasurer from Oakland, stood outside the south gate at Bath Iron Works to greet workers on their way to punch the clock. LePage was there, too. Both Republicans faced some criticism from union members leafleting for Michaud, but a few workers pledged their votes to the candidates.

The shipyard is outside the 2nd District; but shipyard data says nearly two-fifths of the 5,600 employees live there, including more than 1,000 in Androscoggin County. It’s the state’s fifth-largest employer.

Cain was pitched on policy Down East on Wednesday, during a tour of the Port of Eastport with Bob Peacock, a harbor pilot who sits on the port authority’s board. Eastport is the deepest and easternmost seaport in the contiguous United States. From the authority’s facility, goods – ranging from wood products made at the Woodland Pulp mill in Baileyville to pregnant heifers – are shipped abroad.

Peacock said among Eastport’s biggest economic needs is rail. A short line crosses the Canadian border into New Brunswick from the Baileyville mill, and a corridor with no rails leads to Perry, but all that is across the causeway from Eastport. A rail line would cost millions, but would link Eastport to Canada and the rest of the U.S. via another border crossing at Vanceboro in northern Washington County.

If Cain could work to get federal subsidies to build that link, it would bring “incredible business growth,” Peacock said.

“Message received,” the candidate said later in the day, after hearing it from more locals.

They and others in the district have seen a deluge of negative television ads in the race, which generated complaints at the senior center.

The advertising has gotten expensive. Outside groups have spent more than $2 million to boost the party candidates – putting it in the top 25 House races nationally – who have raised more than $3 million. In all, it’s probably the most expensive House race ever in Maine.

National Republicans have criticized Cain’s energy policy and Poliquin ads have called her an “extreme liberal,” while a liberal outside group has hit Poliquin on economic policy and Cain has attacked Poliquin on a tax controversy he dealt with in the treasurer’s office.

Overall, Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine in Orono, said Poliquin’s ads and debate strategy have been “bumping up against the line” of being too negative. That, he said, could counteract a favorable environment nationally for Republicans, in a mid-term year for Democratic President Obama, who is largely unpopular.

“Even with the way that the president’s viewed, I think that voters in the 2nd District are going to go for Cain,” he said.

But don’t tell that to the candidates, who will work with their parties in a coordinated effort with thousands of volunteers through Tuesday.

“It could be decided by a few hundred votes, so we’re running always like we’re 20 points behind,” Poliquin said. “We are confident we’re going to win this, but it’s going to be very close.”

By Tuesday’s end, Cain said, “me and my team will have done absolutely everything we could to put our message out there and to turn out our voters.”

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I’m really excited, actually.”