SKOWHEGAN — Rep. Bruce Poliquin refused to comment on Donald Trump Tuesday after touring the New Balance shoe factory, ignoring reporters’ questions about his party’s presidential nominee and saying he’s “not getting involved in any of this media circus.”

Poliquin, the Republican 2nd District congressman who is up for re-election against Democrat Emily Cain, has refused to comment on Trump several times previously. However, his refusal Tuesday came on the heels of widespread criticism of Trump over statements he made about women in 2005 that became public last week.

Several high-profile Republican Lawmakers, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, have said they won’t vote for Trump in the wake of the controversy.

Trump is scheduled to hold a rally Saturday in Bangor. Asked Tuesday outside the New Balance factory whether he will attend the Bangor rally, Poliquin said he was on an “official visit by our congressional office” at the Skowhegan shoe factory and he was proud to represent “the best shoemakers in the world.”

When asked if Trump should drop out of the race, Poliquin said he’d “continue to do” his job and talked at length about shoe-making legislation that benefits New Balance and helps protect the company’s “900 good-paying jobs with benefits.”

“I am not getting involved in any of this media circus surrounding our presidential election. I am working for these people and I am so proud to do it,” Poliquin said.

When reporters questioned him again on Trump, Poliquin turned and walked away.

Brent Littlefield, a campaign spokesman for Poliquin, said in an email after Tuesday’s visit that it was “ridiculous” for the media to ask questions about Trump, citing a statement Poliquin released over the weekend that responded to Trump’s remarks on women, but didn’t answer the question about whether Poliquin will support him.

Some workers Tuesday also expressed dismay at Poliquin’s reaction when an employee outside the factory asked the congressman if he will support Trump. The question came from a man in the crowd after Poliquin finished delivering remarks to workers outside the factory. Poliquin’s remarks focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement that New Balance has opposed; and the Berry Amendment, a federal law requiring the U.S. military to outfit recruits with American-made gear.

“You say you’re a Republican, but will you vote for Donald Trump?” the man asked.

Poliquin responded, “I am voting for New Balance shoes to be made in America and put on the feet of our men and women in uniform.”

“I don’t know what to think,” said Sheri Nichols, a New Balance employee from New Sharon. “He kind of copped out on answering the question by saying he’s voting for New Balance.”

Nichols said she is an independent and undecided as to whom she will vote for in the 2nd Congressional District race.

“He’s supposed to answer our questions,” Nichols, 40, said of Poliquin. “Probably more people would have asked follow-up questions (about other things), but after blowing it off everybody else just left and went to lunch. He didn’t really take it seriously, I guess.”

But Donna St. Pierre, another New Balance employee, said Poliquin’s response didn’t bother her. St. Pierre is not registered to vote and said she doesn’t plan to participate in the election.

“That’s his right,” she said of Poliquin. “Your vote is private business and I think he handled it well.”

 


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