Bruce Poliquin has lashed out at Kevin Raye, his opponent in the 2nd Congressional District Republican Primary, for what is being billed as the first attack ad of election season. The primary is June 10.
Raye responded on Tuesday with an attack ad of his own.
Poliquin, the state’s former treasurer, former gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primary candidate, is obviously aiming the advertisement at conservative voters in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes northern and central Maine. To do so, he is labeling Raye a “liberal.”
“It’s a liberal politician’s tale,” begins the advertisement. “He says he’s like us but Kevin Raye made thousands working for lobbyists in Washington.”
The advertisement goes on to paint Raye’s political career in broad strokes, accusing him among other things of supporting increased costs for sportsmen and small businesses, supporting an increase on Maine’s estate tax and supporting President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It also criticizes Raye for owning a home in Virginia during a previous bid for Congress. That could be in response to Raye’s criticisms of Poliquin for moving from Georgetown, where he had lived for years, to long-held family property in Oakland, where he moved last year in order to reside in the 2nd Congressional District.
Raye said in a press release that as Senate president, he was intent on using federal stimulus money coming to Maine to support programs that were struggling because of the 2008 recession and opposed using it to create new programs that would cost state-level taxpayers more later. As for the estate tax, Raye shot back that he supported it as part of a state budget bill that passed through the Senate 33-2, even though he had voted in the past to limit or eliminate it.
“Let’s close this book,” concludes the advertisement, which Poliquin has not posted on his campaign website.
Raye and some high-profile supporters, including former Republican House Minority Leader Josh Tardy of Newport and former gubernatorial primary candidate Les Otten of Greenwood, who placed second in a seven-way 2010 primary election for governor that also included Poliquin and now-Gov. Paul LePage, lashed out at Poliquin Monday. Poliquin finished sixth in that race with less than 6,500 votes.
In a press release from Raye, Otten called Poliquin’s attacks on Raye “vicious and misleading.” Since the 2010 primary, Otten has for the most part ducked out of the political world.
“Bruce Poliquin personifies what is wrong with politics today. He has no respect for either his opponents or the voters,” said Otten. “He used the same tactics against me when he was running for governor. They didn’t get him elected then and they won’t get him elected now.”
Tardy, an attorney who is now an Augusta lobbyist, said the attack ad is “a clear sign that he knows he is behind in this election” and that Kevin Raye has a “solid record” in the Legislature.
“This is part of his old playbook when he is desperate,” said Tardy in the statement from Raye. “Poliquin believes the only way to build himself up is tear down anyone who stands in the way of his personal ambitions. It has never worked for him in the past and it won’t work for him this time.”
The ad, which began airing this week, is Poliquin’s second time to go to television this year in his attempt to become the party’s nominee. He aired a largely biographical advertisement in April.
Raye began airing his own advertisement aimed at Poliquin this week which ends with a picture of Poliquin and the words “Wall Street Millionaire Bruce Poliquin, Not From Here. Definitely Not for Us.”
The advertisement attacked Poliquin on the well-circulated issue of Poliquin putting part of his Georgetown ocean-side estate in the Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Law despite language in his deed that prevents large-scale timber harvesting. The state’s tree growth program allows owners of forested property to have that property taxed according to its value for timber harvesting — rather than a higher-value residential or commercial use — as long as a harvesting plan is in place. Raye also attacked Poliquin for past statements in support of gun control.
In 2010, when Poliquin was a candidate in the GOP primary for governor, he was the only Republican candidate who told the BDN he supports mandatory background checks for the purchase of a firearm. (For the record, only one of five Democrats in that primary, Rosa Scarcelli, also replied “yes.”) Poliquin also donated $500 in 1989 to a group called “Handgun Control, Inc.,” according to the website OpenSecrets.org.
There are few issues more important to some Republicans as the right to bear arms and for many, it’s a difference-maker at the ballot box. Vic Berardelli, chairman of the Maine Republican Liberty Caucus, told me earlier this year that the gun control issue has stuck to Poliquin in some circles.
“A big constituency in the 2nd Congressional District is the 2nd Amendment gun rights crowd,” said Berardelli. “They don’t trust Bruce Poliquin on gun rights.”
Despite that, the Republican Liberty Caucus endorsed Poliquin earlier this month.
But perhaps the most interesting tidbit from Raye’s ad, which is the second of this election season, is the image of a baby with the claim that “This cute little baby, he’s lived in the second district longer than Poliquin.” It revisits the residency issue that both candidates are using against each other.
The politics feed on Twitter was awash with commentary about the baby on Tuesday, including some who had tongue-in-cheek dubbed it “babygate.” And I thought a baby gate was a contraption to keep the young ones confined to a certain room or safe from falling down stairs.
For what it’s worth, though a candidate’s residency in the 2nd Congressional District may be of importance to voters, living in the 2nd Congressional District is not a requirement to represent that district, according to Julie Flynn, the deputy secretary of state for elections and commissions.
Poliquin’s campaign first told the Bangor Daily News that Poliquin had switched his residency to Oakland in December of 2013.
The sniping between Raye and Poliquin dates back to at least January, when the candidates launched comparatively mild attacks at each other in conjunction with a campaign finance fundraising deadline.
Though Raye has long touted his conservative cred, the candidate who voters feel is more to the right is likely to do well if Maine election history is any indication. It has long been said that political moderates on the Republican side of the ticket have a difficult time getting through a primary but generally fare well in general elections against Democrats.
Here’s Poliquin’s advertisement, which was posted on YouTube MaineToday Media blogger Michael Shepherd: