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Maine Republicans give Bruce Poliquin a shot at retaking his 2nd District House seat

Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for Maine's 2nd Congressional District, speaks at the Republican state convention, Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for Maine's 2nd Congressional District, speaks at the Republican state convention, Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Augusta, Maine.

Former Congressman Bruce Poliquin won the Republican nomination on Tuesday to run for his old seat in Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

Poliquin, who previously represented the district for four years, fended off a lively challenge from Liz Caruso of Caratunk for the right to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Jared Golden this November. According to unofficial voting results late Tuesday, Poliquin was leading Caruso 60 percent to 40 percent with roughly half of the precincts reporting. Caruso conceded the race just before 11 p.m. and the Associated Press called the race just after.

In a statement, Poliquin took aim at his major-party opponent in November. They will be joined by independent Tiffany Bond on the fall ballot.

“All Republican voters share the same concerns as Independents and disaffected Democrats: inflation is out of control, gas prices are too high, our borders are being overrun, and our economy is in jeopardy,” Poliquin said. “Joe Biden’s policies are a disaster for Maine and America. Where has Jared Golden been? He has been nowhere in solving these problems. In fact, he has joined Nancy Pelosi in voting more than 80% of the time for these failed policies. We need a change and that is what I will bring to Washington.”

Poliquin was widely regarded as the GOP favorite because of his name recognition and fundraising abilities. He had also received early support from the national Republican Party. While Caruso appeared to be gaining steam in recent weeks, Poliquin’s victory on Tuesday appears to show that the party loyalists preferred the better-known candidate to the arguably more conservative underdog. Caruso is a registered Maine guide and homeschooling mom who serves as selectman in her hometown of Caratunk, cast herself as the more conservative candidate in the race and sought to portray Poliquin as out of touch with rural Mainers.

The 68-year-old Poliquin served two terms in Congress before losing to Golden in 2018 during the nation's first congressional race to be decided by ranked-choice voting. He sat out the 2020 election. But in his latest campaign, Poliquin has taken pages from the national Republican playbook as he seeks to link Golden — a Marine Corps veteran who previously served in the Maine Legislature — to the left-leaning policies of President Joe Biden and House Speaker Pelosi. Poliquin often talks of the need to strengthen security on the southern border, increase domestic energy production and to reduce what he portrays as out-of-control government spending under Democrats.

Both sides are bracing for a hard-fought campaign in Maine's swing congressional district. The national parties and outside groups are expected to spend millions of dollars on the race as Republicans and Democrats fight for control of the House. But despite Poliquin's portrayals of Golden as a liberal, the incumbent is a moderate who has actually angered some Democrats with his votes against gun control bills and his opposition to Biden’s Build Back Better plan and priorities of the progressive leadership in the House.

As with four years ago, the wildcard in this year's 2nd District race will be how voters use the ranked-choice process.

In 2018, independent Bond finished third in the four-person race. But Bond's supporters helped boost Golden to victory during the ranked-choice runoff by listing the Democrat as their second choice. Bond has also qualified for the ballot this year and says she is running to win.

In a statement, Caruso pledged to support Poliquin.

“Campaigns are tough but at the end of the day, we are all Republicans, and it’s time for all of us to get behind our nominee,” Caruso said. “I will be working hard to make sure Bruce wins this seat and to make sure rural Maine’s voice continues to be heard.”