Riding a Republican wave, incumbent 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has won another two-year term.
Poliquin defeated Democratic challenger Emily Cain in a campaign that broke all state spending records for a U.S. House race. More than $15 million was spent by the candidates and allied outside interests in a nonstop TV ad campaign.
Shortly after midnight, Poliquin stepped to the microphone at Dysart’s Restaurant in Bangor and delivered the message his supporters had been waiting to hear.
“We have a new rule that we’re starting tonight: For the next two years, during my second term, whenever I see the folks that I work for — because the folks in the Second District are my customers, we work for you — I would please appreciate it if you don’t call me congressman, just call me Bruce,” he said.
Emily Cain, a former state Democratic lawmaker from Orono who lost to Poliquin two years ago by five percentage points, refused to speak to her supporters who had gathered at the Bangor Hilton Garden Inn to cheer her on. Instead, her campaign manager announced she would be making a statement later.
Then, shortly before 2 a.m., she issued a press release.
“Tonight I spoke with Congressman Poliquin and congratulated him on his victory. I am deeply proud of the campaign we ran. We broke records and connected deeply and authentically with people across our state,” she said in the statement.
Among those records, more than $15 million in spending. Many of those ads were directed at Poliquin, who says the effort was a waste of time and money.
“I’m just going to tell you straight up the way I feel about this,” he said. “I’ve been appalled by the millions and millions of dollars spent on false, negative, nasty personal attack ads against me by Nancy Pelosi and her allies. Now I will tell you this: it didn’t work. There’s no way, there’s absolutely no way the state of Maine can be bought.”
With more than 300 television ads a day running for or against the candidates at the height of the campaign, the 2nd District race focused less on issues and more on the candidates’ characterizations of each other.
Poliquin portrayed Cain as a New Jersey native who was a career politician with little practical work experience. Cain and her supporters painted Poliquin as a Wall Street millionaire banker who sought to avoid paying his property taxes in Maine.
Poliquin dismissed Cain as a follower of Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, while Cain criticized Poliquin for refusing to say whether he supported GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Poliquin never did, but Dan Gleick, Cain’s campaign manager, says Poliquin’s supporters already knew where he stood, and that Trump was a big factor in Cain’s defeat.
“The bigger story tonight is probably Donald Trump. You know, we saw across the country a man who frankly has bragged about sexual assault be probably elected to the presidency, and you know, that really speaks to something that’s going on in this country,” he says.
Unofficial returns indicate that Trump won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District by 10 points, while losing to Clinton in the 1st District by 17 points.