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Could the Iran Deal Affect Maine's 2nd District Race?

AUGUSTA, Maine — With Senate Democrats thwarting Republican efforts to kill the Iran nuclear deal in Congress, the Iranian government is already taking steps to make the changes required for the lifting of economic sanctions that could become effective next spring.

The Obama administration has designated Oct. 18 as Adoption Day and Iran is expected begin the removal of thousands of centrifuges to scale back its nuclear infrastructure.

Maine's Congressional Delegation has split on Iran, which is now playing out as a potential issue in next year's 2nd Congressional District contest.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine' 2nd District quickly concluded that the Iran agreement on nuclear inspections was a bad deal for the United States for three reasons.

First, he says, the Iranian government cannot be trusted; second, it failed to dismantle Iran's nuclear program; and third, it provides for the release of $100 billion in formerly sanctioned assets that could be used to further destabilize the region.

"I will never support ever — any opportunity to have a marriage between nuclear weapons and terorism," Poliquin says. "And the country of Iran right now — the government of Iran — supports terrorism throughout the world and that's a real issue for me."

Maine Republican state Chairman Rick Bennett praised Poliquin for supporting what he described as a "dangerous and unpopular" deal — and then, in a press release, he dared the GOP incumbent's two Democratic opponents to offer their views.

Former state Sen. Emily Cain's immediate response?

"To make the Iran deal political is irresponsible," Cain says.

Cain, who lost to Poliquin last year, is in a two-way primary with Bangor city councilman Joe Baldacci for the Democratic nomination to unseat Poliquin next year.

Cain was puzzled over why Bennett might think that she didn't have an opinion on Iran, an issue she says she discusses almost daily with supporters and staff.

Although the agreement is also opposed by GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Cain says that like U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, she would have supported the president — providing she had the same type of assurances.

"I would make a judgment on this based on protecting our allies, especially Israel, making sure that Iran does not get any nuclear weapons and overall, making sure that we're prioritizing nuclear nonproliferation around the world," Cain says. "This is about safety. This is about security and this is about the United States being able to continue to be a global leader by keeping our world as safe a place as possible in a very difficult time."

Cain said that what troubled her about the Republicans' condemnation in Congress of the Iranian nuclear inspection agreement was that members of the majority party appeared to have formulated an opinion before many of the facts were even known.

"As a member of Congress, I would certainly want the opportunity to review every bit of information," Cain says. "I can't do that now — but I will, when I'm in Congress."

Repeated calls to Joe Baldacci for comment on the Iranian inspection plan were not returned by air time.