Several times during Tuesday’s congressional debate in Maine’s 2nd District, Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin assailed Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who serves as her party’s leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The two-term incumbent sought during the hourlong, televised debate to tie Pelosi to his Democratic challenger, Jared Golden.

Though Golden, a state representative from Lewiston, has said repeatedly he does not support Pelosi, Poliquin said a super PAC she oversees is spending millions “lying about me and propping him up.”

The reality is that super PACs on both sides of the aisle are spending millions in Maine to try to swing the 2nd District to their side in the Nov. 6 election, including one super PAC controlled by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan that has opened an office in Bangor to coordinate its efforts.

An ongoing public poll by The New York Times and Siena College, not yet finished but statistically significant, has Golden with a slight lead. Ranked-choice voting, which the poll is not weighing, could also help him.

Poliquin, clearly feeling the heat, said he objected “to all these dark money groups that are pouring money in here” to go after him with “completely false” charges.

Golden said he hoped debate viewers were “tired of listening to your congressman issue false attack after false attack” against him instead of talking about the issues facing the rural, struggling district Poliquin has represented since 2014.

“Bruce seems to have some sort of strange fascination with Nancy Pelosi,” Golden said. “I do not.”

One of the two independents in the race, Southwest Harbor educator Will Hoar, expressed frustration with Poliquin’s tactics.

“I don’t want this to turn into a name-calling session,” Hoar said. “We shouldn’t be talking about Nancy Pelosi.”

The other independent, Tiffany Bond of Portland, who is not accepting campaign contributions, said the $15 million dumped into the race so far ought to be used for something far more important than trashing candidates.

“What could $15 million do towards opioids in rural Maine?” she asked.

While much of the debate rehashed issues that have captured most of the attention during the campaign — health care, the opioid crisis and the economy — the candidates addressed the impact of ranked-choice voting for the first time at the Presque Isle debate at WAGM-TV, which also aired on WABI in Bangor and WMTW in Portland.

Poliquin said he planned to vote for himself and nobody else on Election Day. He urged supporters to choose him and ignore the others.

The other three candidates said they would vote for themselves first and pick Poliquin last. None of the three, however, identified his or her second choice.

Bond called it “foolish not to rank” since the new voting system gives people the chance to help elect someone they like better than their last-place choice.

Maine Political Report



Poliquin also refused to name the candidate for whom he voted in the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump carried his district against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“That’s my business,” Poliquin said.

The other three readily admitted they did not vote for Trump.

Poliquin touted his experience as “a job creator” during 35 years in private business, before he got into politics with an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010. He said none of his challengers was qualified to serve in the House because he or she lacks his business record.

Golden, the assistant majority leader in the state House, said his background of two combat tours in the U.S. Marines and working his whole life for his family’s small golf course in Leeds have provided him lessons on leadership and small business that help him understand the issues facing the district.

Hoar talked about overcoming his substance-abuse problems, and called for doing more to help those trying to recover.

Bond said she would read the bills on which Congress votes and take the time to explain their ins and outs to constituents — something she said she can do because she will not be spending time raising money for her next campaign.

To bolster the economy in Maine, Poliquin said government needs to continue to cut red tape, lower taxes and ensure fair trade deals. He pointed to Maine’s low unemployment as testimony to Republican success in addressing the economy.

“Sometimes I wonder if Bruce has been to rural Maine,” Bond said.

Hoar said “up here you can see the economy is not doing as well as people in government and Wall Street” claim. He said the nation must bring respect and money back to rural America.

Golden said government needs “to go big on infrastructure,” such as broadband to help rural areas meet the challenges they face.

Bond urged people to “come book a vacation” in northern Maine. She also called for making marijuana and hemp a key ingredient for recreational tourism and new industries.

Golden and Poliquin also faced off about guns, with the congressman touting his A rating from the National Rifle Association.

Golden said he got a D because he sought to make it more difficult for people involved in domestic abuse to obtain guns.

“If Bruce wants to be weak on domestic violence,” Golden said, “I think that’s a problem.”

“I don’t think a high rating with the NRA ensures anyone’s safety,” Hoar said.

Both Hoar and Bond said more needs to be done to prevent school shootings.

Tuesday night’s debate was the last in which all four candidates are expected to participate. The final debate, expected to include Golden, Hoar and Bond, is scheduled for Oct. 28 in Bangor, sponsored by Maine Public.