Saturday, March 8, 2014
WASHINGTON — The field of candidates for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is taking shape as at least six Republicans and Democrats gear up for the first competitive primaries for the seat in more than a decade.
On the Democratic side, powerful interest groups are already aligning with two contenders – Maine state Sens. Troy Jackson and Emily Cain – with similar political views but disparate styles and backgrounds. And two prominent Republicans – Kevin Raye and Bruce Poliquin – are busy raising money and building grassroots campaigns ahead of an election that is already “on the radar” of national groups.
“This is an open seat that is going to get national attention,” Poliquin said.
With six months to go before the primaries, there’s still time for people to join the race to fill the seat being vacated by six-term U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat with his sights set on the governor’s mansion next year.
But the Republican field may be set after one of the last rumored potential candidates, former state Sen. Richard Rosen of Bucksport, confirmed that he will not enter the race.
“The opportunity to represent my fellow Mainers in Washington, D.C., would be a great and solemn privilege, but I have come to recognize that my preference is to serve the state in a way that allows me to remain close to the people of Maine,” Rosen, who currently serves as director of Gov. Paul LePage’s Office of Policy and Management, said in a statement.
That leaves Raye, Poliquin and Blaine Richardson of Belfast as the only declared candidates.
Three Democrats have also filed paperwork registering as candidates: Cain, Jackson and political newcomer Alden Smith. A fourth potential candidate, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, said Saturday that he is still weighing whether to join the race.
Although well known in his native Bangor area, Baldacci would clearly benefit from Democrats’ associations with his brother John, who occupied the 2nd District seat for eight years and was governor for eight. Joe Baldacci said he planned to make a decision by the end of the year.
“I have been warmly received by hundreds of people all across the Second District and across Maine, and I have been repeatedly asked to consider the race, so that is what I am going to do,” Baldacci said in a recent email.
The three declared Democratic candidates are already racking up miles as they canvass the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River.
Cain is an administrator and doctoral student at the University of Maine who, at age 34, already has a decade’s experience in state politics and a “rising star” label from an influential national political organization.
Jackson, a logger from Allagash, has the blue-collar credentials, rural roots and legislative experience that helped Michaud win over the 2nd District’s more conservative voters 11 years ago. An early endorsement from Maine’s largest labor union could help Jackson’s fundraising and ground game.
“I want to keep this as professional and as friendly as possible,” Jackson said of the campaign. “I think we have different styles and it is up to the people to decide which style they want representing them in Washington, D.C.”
Mike Cuzzi, a Maine Democratic strategist who has worked on state and national campaigns, said recently that he doesn’t expect to see many substantive differences on the policy side between the two. Instead, Cuzzi predicted differences of “strategy and execution” on similar political platforms.
“I think it has the potential to be a very close race,” Cuzzi said. “These are two very credible candidates, both coming out of prior positions of leadership in the Legislature and both enjoying strong support.”
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