Updated October 17, 2018 5:36 p.m.
The four candidates for congress in the state’s second district held their second, and likely last, debate as a full group Tuesday night in Presque Isle. While most of the questions had been asked of them before, the forum did get a bit testy over the issue of outside groups attempting to influence the campaign.
As often happens in political debates, the answers to questions posed by the debate hosts at WAGM TV often morphed into other areas entirely. When asked about how Congress might address the growing cost of higher education, incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin talked about how he handled his student loans, but then returned to talking points. He branded Democratic opponent Jared Golden as “too liberal” and as the recipient of aid from the PAC set up House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Jared Golden has a voting record that Nancy Pelosi loves,” Poliquin said. “Higher taxes, more red tape, less economic growth and fewer jobs. We need to go forward, not backward.”
Golden questioned Poliquin’s repeated focus on Pelosi in debates and on the campaign trail.
“Bruce seems to have some strange obsession with Nancy Pelosi, as you can see tonight,” Golden said. “I, on the other hand, do not. I made very clear well over a year ago that I will not be supporting her because I don’t support her.”
But Poliquin doubled down on the Pelosi PAC, and on the large amounts of money he says that it has spent to attack him and support Golden.
“For him to look in the camera and tell the people of Maine that Nancy Pelosi has spent about $7 million lying and attacking me and propping him up is something that just happened by accident,” said Poliquin. “She just loves Jared Golden’s voting record.”
Golden fired back. Poliquin, he countered, is getting propped up by a super PAC run by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan that is also spending millions of dollars to attack him and the two independents in the race.
“What matters is that right here, in Bangor, Mine, in the second district, his boss, Speaker Ryan, has a super PAC office running a dirty campaign against me, against Tiffany and Will,” said Golden. “They are propping up Bruce Poliquin.”
Independent Will Hoar then tried to bring the topic back to the orginal question.
"We shouldn’t be talking about Nancy Pelosi,” said Hoar. “We were asked about, you know, trying to create programs for trying to get rid of debt and we should stick to that.”
Fellow independent Tiffany Bond also ignored the tug-of-war over political action committees and returned to the original topic.
“We also need to be pushing federal funding back to our colleges,” Bond said. “If we do not have an educated workforce, we will fall behind globally and that is something we cannot afford to do.”
The televised debate is likely the last time that all four candidates will appear together before election day. Golden, Hoar and Bond have agreed to take part in Maine Public’s October forum at Husson University in Bangor. Poliquin declined the invitation.
Originally published October 17, 2018 5:56 a.m.