LEWISTON, Mass. – Maine Congressman Bruce Poliquin is an oddity in New England, the very last Republican serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in a part of the country dominated by Democrats.
The businessman captured the seat in Maine’s sprawling and mostly rural Second District in 2014 but, before Poliquin, Democrats held the seat for 20 years and they want to reclaim this ground, which went red in 2016, too, when voters here elected President Trump.
State Rep. Jared Golden, 36, a Marine Corp veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is waging a spirited fight to make it happen.
"I particularly believe we need a new generation of leaders in this country,” Golden said.
Golden, a Democrat, is pushing back against his opponent’s efforts to label him a socialist and tie him to Nancy Pelosi, calling himself a “Labor Democrat.” He notes he once worked for Maine’s Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
"The point is, I'm the type of guy that can work across the aisle and get things done rather than just go fight and play games,” Golden said.
Democrats have sought to use Poliquin’s investment business background against him, but during a visit to the ND paper mill in Rumford, Poliquin touted the resurgence of this once robust industry, arguing his experience is an asset.
"My career is not in politics. For 35 years, only in small businesses, so I know how to run the economy,” said Poliquin. “I know how to participate in a real-world economy, grow jobs and that's why I've been so focused on trade and regulations and taxes, what have you."
Fox Power Ranking declare the race a tossup and the ad war here has proven to be both expansive and expensive, with millions of dollars worth of outside money pouring in to fill the airwaves.
"The size of the district is also important as well because the district is a huge geographic space,” said Michael Franz, professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College. “You have to advertise. You can't do all retail politics like you can in an urban district."
There are also two independent candidates in the race who could muddy the political waters. Maine is using ranked-choice voting in this election. If no candidate wins with a majority of over 50 percent on the first count, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the voters’ second choice is applied until somebody wins.