Some of the negative campaign ads that voters in the 2nd Congressional District have been treated to over the past few weeks came to life at an MPBN debate on Thursday night, particularly when candidates were asked to direct questions at their opponents.
Emily Cain, the Democratic candidate from Orono, asked Republican Bruce Poliquin to explain why he “bent the rules and used tax loopholes” on his oceanfront property in Georgetown, allegations she’s made in attack ads against him. She is referring to reports that Poliquin enrolled his property in Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Program, which gives “significant tax breaks to landowners in exchange for sustainable, commercial timber harvesting,” according to a story by Steve Mistler in 2012. However, there were restrictions on the property that prohibited any tree-cutting.
But Poliquin said he’s paid thousands of dollars of taxes on his property and turned the question of taxes back on Cain. He tried to call her out on statements she’s made that she helped negotiate $4 billion in tax cuts, saying that though she voted to pass a bill (in 2011) that cut taxes, she said at the time that she hated the cuts.
Cain said, as she has in the past, that even though she and her party were firmly against the tax cuts, she stands by her vote on that budget. Whether she can take credit for those tax cuts is a good question.
“The difference between Bruce and I is that I was there,” she said referring to negotiations around the budget.
Many of the other points made by the candidates have come up before. Poliquin tried to paint Cain as a career politician, while Cain said she is a public servant. Cain would invest in renewable energy, Poliquin simply says we should “increase energy production.” Blaine Richardson, the independent candidate, was largely left out of the cross fire. Most of his answers somehow related to reducing the size of the federal government.
In an interesting moment, the candidates were asked about the Ebola virus.
All three used a tactic that candidates across the country are tapping into. They said the Obama administration has not done enough to address the virus, which has infected three people, and expressed a great deal of fear of Ebola. Cain even said flights to the United States from the countries where Ebola is rampant should be canceled.
There was a good segment on NPR this morning about the use of this issue in the elections this year.
Like Thom Tillis, who is running for Senate in North Carolina, Poliquin tried to link Ebola to boarder control, saying in his response that Cain is in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants.
He’s referring to Cain’s support of the DREAM Act, which gives residency to law-abiding immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors and have joined the military or gone to college.
Throughout the debate, Poliquin pivoted from answering the questions to attacking Cain, as he had done during the debate on Tuesday. Cain took some stabs herself, but was largely on the defensive.
Many people in the district I’ve spoken with have said they’re turned off by the negative campaigning, but someone clearly still thinks it works.