Poliquin, Raye earn ‘young guns’ nod from NRCC

Kevin Raye (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett) and Bruce Poliquin (BDN photo by Bob Bukaty). BDN illustration by Mario Moretto.

Kevin Raye (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett) and Bruce Poliquin (BDN photo by Bob Bukaty). BDN illustration by Mario Moretto.

Kevin Raye and Bruce Poliquin, two GOP 2nd Congressional District hopefuls, got early nods from the National Republican Congressional Committee on Thursday, a sign that top party leaders in D.C. think both candidates stand a chance at winning the open seat.

Raye, a former Maine Senate President from Perry, and Poliquin, a former State Treasurer from Oakland, were each placed “on the radar” for the NRCC’s Young Guns program. They are competing for an open Congressional seat being vacated by six-term U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is leaving the post to make a run for governor in 2014.

The program was started in the ’07-’08 election cycle by then-U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Challenger and open-seat candidates apply to the program, which supports and mentors those the NRCC deems to be competitive. ‘On the Radar’ is the first of three levels, each of which comes with more national party investment then the last. The NRCC says 35 young guns were elected to the 113th Congress.

Thirty-two GOP congressional candidates in 25 races were placed “on the radar” along with the two Maine Republicans.

Party sources tell me that with two candidates on the list in the same race, the NRCC isn’t likely to exert much pressure on the state’s GOP primary, which pits Raye and Poliquin against former Navy Captain Blaine Richardson, a Belfast native with a libertarian bent. Richard Rosen, a former state senator from Bucksport and current LePage administration member, has also announced he will run in the 2nd CD.

Democratic candidates include state Sens. Emily Cain of Orono and Troy Jackson of Allagash. Also running is Navy reservist Alden Smith of Sangerville. Bangor Councilor Joe Baldacci, younger brother to former Gov. John Baldacci, is also considering a run.

What the designation does means is the NRCC views Raye and Poliquin  both as viable candidates with a shot to beat the eventual Democratic nominee in a general election. When the primaries are over, we can expect the committee to pour money into the race.

In a release, it pledged to “ensure that their campaigns remain competitive, well-funded and communicative within their districts.” It could also mean the “Big Guns” — namely Ryan and Cantor — could put their weight behind the campaign of the eventual GOP nominee.

Here’s what Raye had to say in a prepared statement:

“I couldn’t be more excited about the momentum this campaign is building.Today’s announcement by the NRCC reinforces what we have known for some time — that Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will be a key race nationally and offers a real pick-up opportunity for Republicans. I am grateful for the strong support my campaign is receiving all across the district, and I will continue to work as hard as I can to win this election.”

And here’s Poliquin:

“It is an honor to be among only a few dozen campaigns across the country to earn this distinction. Being put ‘On the Radar’ is an acknowledgement of something we already knew: Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is winnable for the right Republican candidate. We’re running a strong, grassroots-oriented campaign that is showing that we are in a good position to do just that.”

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.