Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain is hoping the blue district will hold true to form, while Republican Bruce Poliquin is banking on its red streak.

The 2nd District is Democratic, but far less so than Maine as a whole. In 2012, Democratic President Obama carried 53 percent of the district. In the more urban 1st District in southern Maine, he won 60 percent of the votes.

The district’s conservative streak could apply to a host of issues of foreign and domestic importance, from immigration and the fight against Islamic extremists to deep-rooted social issues such as abortion and gun rights.

The difference between the districts has been evident on those issues before. Ahead of his gubernatorial run this year, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the 2nd District Democrat, was known for mixed stances on abortion, for example.

Cain, an Orono state senator, and Poliquin, a former state treasurer from Oakland, share predictably different views in a race complicated by independent Blaine Richardson, who is running to the right of the Republican.

IMMIGRATION

The context: Immigration became a major political issue earlier this year amid a crush of children from Central America illegally crossing America’s southern border to flee violence. A small number of kids were placed in Maine, where it briefly became a point of contention in the gubernatorial race.

Obama has long called for immigration reform that would provide some undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship while bolstering border security. Maine business and labor groups support it, but a divided Congress hasn’t addressed the issue.

Cain supports comprehensive reform that includes a path to citizenship. She also supports the DREAM Act, a proposed law that would provide younger immigrants here illegally a path to citizenship tied to completion of higher education or military service.

“Republicans and Democrats need to come together to pass comprehensive immigration reform before the solution becomes even more costly,” she said in a July statement.

Poliquin has taken a harder line on immigration, saying Central American children should be sent home and calling weak border enforcement “a jobs issue” in America. He has criticized Cain for her support of the DREAM Act, calling it “amnesty.”

“We need to make sure our borders are secure – all of our borders – and make sure we don’t have folks coming into this country that shouldn’t be here,” he said.

Richardson, shortly after news of the country’s first Ebola case broke, said America’s border should be totally closed to air and land travel. Before that, he suggested defunding the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“The No. 1 duty of the president is the security and health and welfare of the nation, and we need to shut this border like a steel trap,” he said.

FIGHTING ISIL

The context: A terrorist group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, has captured large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, killing thousands and beheading journalists and aid workers from Western countries. It is also known as ISIS.

Obama has authorized airstrikes in the two countries. If that fails, military leaders have said American ground troops could be sent in.

Cain supports the airstrikes, but she has said she would not support sending American ground troops to fight ISIL.

“Too many Maine families are worried too many nights for their loved ones serving overseas,” she said.

Poliquin hasn’t answered pointed questions about whether he would support sending in American ground troops, saying he would “hold the president accountable for making sure he is very clear to Congress what his objectives are” when he sends troops in.

“We need to do everything to defeat this enemy that wants to attack our homeland, but listen to our military leaders,” he said.

Richardson, a retired Navy captain, has said Congress must be involved with the executive branch in planning the U.S. response, but “boots need to be on the ground to do this properly.”

ABORTION

The context: In 2013, less than a quarter of Maine’s 1,900 abortions were performed at clinics in the 2nd District, according to state data.

Maine has relaxed laws around abortion. For example, it is one of two states to allow minors to get abortion services without parental consent. However, its abortion rates have historically been far lower than the rest of the nation.

In 2011, 2360 women obtained abortions in Maine, producing a rate of 9.9 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, according to the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute. That was 40 percent lower than the national rate.

Cain has been endorsed by pro-abortion rights groups since before her primary win in June. She favors unlimited access to abortion.

“I believe women should always be able to make their own health care decisions every single time under every circumstance,” she said.

Poliquin is an anti-abortion Catholic who has said he only supports access to abortion in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother or child is endangered, often invoking the drowning death of his late wife in 1992 as an event that helped shape his beliefs.

“When your wife is healthy and she dies suddenly at age 37 and you have a 16-month-old in diapers, you get to focus real quickly on what’s important in life,” he has said, “and I know how fragile and how precious it is.”

Richardson opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. “It’s a life,” he has said.

GUN RIGHTS

The context: Maine has a high rate of gun ownership and a low rate of gun violence. That’s especially pronounced in the rural 2nd District, where hunting is popular. Michaud has won his seat repeatedly with the support of the National Rifle Association, but the group has endorsed Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Poliquin this year.

Cain supports mandating background checks on private gun purchases, an idea opposed by the NRA that has perennially failed to gain traction in the Maine Legislature.

“I can look people straight in the eye and say I support Maine gun owners, but I also support background checks that will reduce gun violence,” she said in May.

Poliquin is NRA-endorsed, opposing the expansion of background checks and saying he has never supported it. However, he was the only Republican at a gubernatorial forum in 2010 to say he supported it.

Richardson opposes gun control. “I don’t need the endorsement because I’ve been a life member for years,” he said of Poliquin’s NRA endorsement. “I am the NRA.”


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