June 3, 2012

Election 2012: Rivals hit Poliquin on pike widening

The GOP U.S. Senate hopeful draws criticism for backing a 1991 initiative to stop a turnpike expansion.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Bruce Poliquin, center, one of six candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, is taking heat from the other candidates for his support for a 21-year-old voter initiative that temporarily halted the widening of the Maine Turnpike.

2012 File Photo/John Patriquin

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He added, “I’m not surprised that some of his competition in the Senate race would use his association with us as a sledgehammer against him.”

The criticism from other GOP candidates suggests that the self-described activist state treasurer may be leading a primary contest that will be decided June 12.

That’s Poliquin’s assessment.

“This shows that we’re winning,” he said today.

Last week, Poliquin came under fire for distributing campaign literature that his opponents claimed deceptively suggested that he’d received an endorsement from Gov. Paul LePage. The governor has vowed to stay neutral during the primary contest.

Attorney General William Schneider, another Republican U.S. Senate candidate, said Poliquin was attempting to ride LePage’s “coattails” to the nomination.

Poliquin has acknowledged that he’s hoping to woo LePage voters and tea party activists.

The latest criticism appears designed to undercut that support by questioning Poliquin’s positions on issues that mobilize a Republican base that may well decide the primary. 

In addition to Poliquin’s involvement with pro-environment NRCM, Bennett also questioned a $500 donation Poliquin made in 1989 made to Handgun Control Inc., which is now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The group supports increased regulations on the sale of firearms, including mandatory background checks.

The 1989 donation and Poliquin’s NRCM involvement were both known in 2010, when he was one of seven GOP gubernatorial candidates. However, Poliquin was never a serious contender in that race. He finished sixth.

Bennett acknowledged that Poliquin is a threat now, but he did so while jabbing at the treasurer’s campaign war chest.

Poliquin reported last week that he had raised $229,214 over the recent reporting period, second only to independent Angus King, the presumed frontrunner. However, it’s not yet clear how much of Poliquin’s money is from supporters or his own funding -- a point that Bennett was quick to mention.

Poliquin, a former investment manager, spent more than $700,000 in 2010, but his campaign was almost entirely self-funded.

“We’ll see how much he’s raised and how much of his own money he’s contributed,” Bennett said. “Until then the consistency of his positions deserve tough scrutiny.”

Under federal campaign finance regulations, Poliquin’s fundraising report was submitted to the secretary of the U.S. Senate last week, but the information has not yet been conveyed to the Federal Election Commission, which will make details of the report public later this month.

Poliquin brushed off the criticism, saying it was a sign that he was upsetting the status quo.

“I’m not the establishment candidate,” he said. “If you want to vote for one of them there’s a whole room full to choose from.”

He added, “I expect more of it (criticism). Unfortunately, this is how it’s done. It is what it is. It’s the silly season.”

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

smistler@mainetoday.com

Twitter: stevemistler

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