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Joe Baldacci Announces Run for US House

BANGOR, Maine — Joe Baldacci says his lifetime of experience in Maine, as a public servant and attorney here, makes him the best candidate to face Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin next year.

Baldacci, brother of former Maine Gov. John Baldacci, is joining Emily Cain in the race for the Democratic nomination in Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

Cain, a former legislator who lost to Poliquin last November, says she still gives Democrats the best chance to retake the seat, while Poliquin's campaign dismisses both candidates as out of step with the largely rural district.

Both parties, along with outside groups, poured millions of dollars into the race for the open 2nd District seat last year. The 2016 race doesn't look to be any different, despite the presence of an incumbent.

The 2nd District has been trending more conservative of late. Voters in the district elected a Democrat six times in a row before handing Poliquin a decisive victory last November.

Baldacci says it will take more than money for a Democrat to win back the seat.

"Whether it's me or Emily Cain, we're never going to outraise Bruce Poliquin," he says. "But what we can do, to win this seat, is to outmessage him and his party."

The Poliquin campaign takes issue with Baldacci's view of which party will have the financial advantage next year. What's not in dispute though, Baldacci says, are the issues that are likely to decide the outcome of both the Democratic primary and the general election.

"This district is made up of all kinds of small towns," he says. "And those people are concerned about jobs and the economy, sending their kids to college. About helping their elderly grandparents or parents, making sure that everyone has adequate health care."

Last fall, Poliquin's laserlike focus on job creation, cutting wasteful spending, lowering energy costs, eliminating burdensome regulations and reducing taxes helped propel him to victory, along with a tough advertising campaign that aggressively defined Emily Cain as a liberal with extreme views.

Baldacci grew up working in his family's restaurant, started a law practice in Bangor and serves on the Bangor City Council, where he's recently fought to raise the city's minimum wage.

"Emily is a friend," he says. "At the last election, I had a fundraiser for her at my house. I think I have different experiences — as a small-business person from Maine — that will make me a more effective fighter for the state of Maine.""

"This is not a surprise to me at all," says Emily Cain, adding that she welcomes a primary contest next spring. "This is a exciting race. It's going to be a nationally targeted race. And it's absolutely normal that multiple people would want to get involved."

But Cain, who announced her second run for the seat in March, says there's no question, in her mind, that she's the best candidate to try to unseat Poliquin.

"What I bring to the table is a record of getting things done," she says. "I have over ten years in the state Legislature. And I've been spending the last 5-6 months on the road, across the district, and the grassroots support we have is just overwhelming and I'm very optimistic about next year."

The Poliquin campaign, meantime, says it's not too concerned with the expanding Democratic field.

"Maybe additional Baldaccis will jump in with Joe," says Brent Littlefield, the campaign's political consultant. "We're not worried about that. We're worried about protecting jobs, growing Maine's economy and helping make sure we do the best job possible to represent the people of the 2nd Congressional District. And Bruce Poliquin gets up every day thinking about that."

As Baldacci launches his campaign for the Democratic nomination, he starts with one significant obstacle to overcome: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which so far at least sees Cain as the more viable candidate and has given her its full backing.