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‘Ultimately We Didn’t Win’ — Emily Cain Reflects on 2nd District Loss

A.J. Higgins
Maine Public
Emily Cain seeks to reassure supporters at her election headquarters in Bangor Wednesday morning.

Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain closed up her Bangor headquarters today, formally ending her second bid in four years against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin. In hindsight, Cain believes she ran the best campaign she could, and some observers say Cain was hurt by other issues on the ballot.

Nearly $16 million later, the dust has cleared over the 2nd District, where two years ago, Cain lost to Poliquin by five percentage points. This time around Cain ran a more aggressive campaign — and lost by 10 points.

Cain says she has no regrets over how she staged her campaign.

“I am 100 percent glad that I ran again and I am 100 percent sure that we did everything we could,” Cain says. “We ran the best ads. We had a strong message. Ultimately we didn’t win and sometimes that happens.”

“Well whenever you lose it’s very easy to say that something should have been different and you know, obviously, there’s a case for that here,” says Amy Fried, a political science professor at the University of Maine.

Fried says Cain actually did improve her standing in some communities, but that there was little she could do to hold back the wave of conservative support for presidential candidate Donald Trump. And Fried says Cain was also hurt by voters who turned out to oppose a ballot question crafted to close private gun sale loopholes.

“I would think that Poliquin benefited both from the presidential race and from Question 3 in particular,” Fried says.

But Poliquin says one of the things Cain should have done was to discourage outside organizations from spending millions in television ads that he says sought to discredit him.

“I’ve been appalled by the millions and millions of dollars spent on false, negative, nasty, personal attack ads against me,” Poliquin says.

Cain counters that her supporters had no choice but to fight back against what she described as the Wall Street attacks on her campaign by a multimillionaire. It’s an example, she says, of why campaign finance reform should be a top agenda item for the next Congress.

As for Cain’s next steps, Fried says she could learn something from the way 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree responded to her loss for a U.S. Senate seat 15 years ago. Pingree left politics to assume the helm of Common Cause, a liberal political advocacy group, before winning election to her current office.

“If she would do that sort of thing, perhaps at some point in the future, she would be able to run again, but I think she needs to take some time away,” Fried says.

Cain says she plans to take some time consider her next move.