BANGOR — Voter turnout is expected to be high in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, where a tight race between Democrat Emily Cain and Republican Bruce Poliquin is to be decided tonight.

The race to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat running for governor, is complicated by the third candidate, longshot independent Blaine Richardson, and polling places are seeing high turnout even on the heels of a weekend snowstorm that left more than 50,000 in the district without power on Tuesday.

Poliquin, a former state treasurer from Oakland, greeted voters for much of the day in Bangor, while Cain, a state senator, started her day in Lewiston before voting in her hometown of Orono.

A poll released on Monday by the Maine People’s Resource Center, a liberal group, showed the race essentially tied, giving Poliquin 43 percent of support to Cain’s 42 percent, well within the 5 percent margin of error. That matched a string of other recent results signifying a close race.

“We’re going to win this,” Poliquin said outside the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Tuesday. “It’s going to be very close, but we’re going to win this.”

Cain was relaxed after casting her ballot in Orono, saying she has seen overwhelming support of late.

“I’m very proud of the campaign we’ve run and I’m proud of the team that has had my back every step of the way,” she said.

She could be aided by Richardson, a conservative from Belfast, who got 10 percent of the total in the latest poll. In a close race, that could swing the election away from Poliquin, a possibility the Republican acknowledged explicitly.

“I encourage everybody to go out and vote for Bruce Poliquin, not Blaine Richardson,” he said, “because if you do that, you’re likely going to elect one of the most extreme liberal politicians that Maine has seen in two decades.”

But Richardson, who was also outside the polls in Bangor, rejected that argument, saying Poliquin is “deflecting accountability.”

“I’m not running their campaigns, so the outcome that any of the three of us get is our own doing,” he said.

Polling places across the state were busy on Tuesday, when Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said he predicts 60 percent turnout statewide. That’s close to Maine’s normal share in a presidential year, mostly motivated by the high-profile governor’s race between Michaud, Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.

But in the 2nd District, Dunlap said it could be higher. That’s because of a referendum question that would outlaw bear baiting, hounding and trapping in Maine, activities that take place predominantly in the 2nd District, which encompasses 80 percent of Maine geographically and its northern population half.

When the question went to voters in 2004, all 2nd District counties voted to reject the law change. That could help Republicans in rural areas reliant on the hunt.

In Newport, independent Dan Stevens voted against the bear baiting referendum on Tuesday, saying guides around his North Woods camp rely on the hunt. In the 2nd District race, he said he made a last-minute decision to vote for Poliquin over Cain. When asked what swung it, he only said, “NRA,” referring to the National Rifle Association’s endorsement of the Republican.

But some voters were bothered by a controversy that dogged Poliquin in the state treasurer’s office. In 2012, he was criticized for putting 10 acres of his coastal estate in Georgetown in a state tax-break program meant to encourage commercial logging, which a deed largely restricted. In 2010, he paid $21 in taxes on that plot.

Gayle Warren, a Democrat, said after voting in Gardiner that she doesn’t know Cain well, but Poliquin’s tax “shenanigans” made her cast a vote for the Democrat, who she called “the lesser of two evils.”

On Tuesday, 50,000 people remained without power, including 12,000 alone in Waldo County, with rural areas in Penobscot and Hancock counties also affected. But Dunlap said on Tuesday morning that he hasn’t heard anything negative from affected areas.

“I don’t think turnout is going to be affected by power outages,” he said.

 

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

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Twitter: @mikeshepherdme