At a 2nd Congressional District debate in Presque Isle on Tuesday night, the three candidates started off more cordial, launching fewer attacks than they had during their previous public appearances together.
At the debate hosted by WAGM-TV and Leaders Encouraging Aroostook Development, GOP candidate Bruce Poliquin attempted to soften comments about his opponent, Democratic candidate Emily Cain, by saying he wasn’t attacking her, just telling voters about her record. On more than one occasion, he called her Emily, rather than Ms. Cain, as he had during the last debate.
The candidates even agreed on some key issues. Neither Poliquin nor Cain said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act, both saying that there are some good aspects in it, such as the fact that people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Both acknowledged that there are parts of the law that don’t work — particularly for small businesses. By contrast, the independent candidate, Blaine Richardson, said repealing the Affordable Care Act would be the first thing he would do in congress.
All three candidates supported a travel ban of some kind to stop the spread of Ebola, even though the director of the CDC warned that such action would make it harder for workers on the ground in West Africa to stop the spread of the disease.
They said they support mining on Bald Mountain, are opposed to the legalization of marijuana and none support the proposed ban on bear baiting.
But, as with the MPBN debate last week, it was when the candidates were asked to direct questions at each other that the gloves came off.
Both Richardson and Poliquin asked Cain about her position on a woman’s right to choose an abortion – a topic that they must think resonates with voters in Maine’s most northern county.
“I’m a pro-life Catholic,” said Poliquin, explaining that his views are shared by many in the district. “How do you think you can share the values and represent the values of the 2nd District when you support abortion providers 100 percent of the time?”
Cain responded, saying “politicians and bosses” should not interfere in a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
“It’s about making sure that women across our state have the right to make their own health care decisions every single time,” she said.
Anxiety around the economy and job prospects in the district continued to surface during the debate, as did the contest over who would be the best job creator.
After Richardson had asked Poliquin how many jobs he has created during the MPBN debate, Poliquin turned the question back on the independent candidate saying, “you don’t have any experience creating jobs.”
Richardson countered that he participated in his family’s greenhouse business where he was responsible for hiring and that he runs a construction company in Belfast, where he said he’s hired “hundreds.”
In his closing statement, however, Poliquin continued to present himself as the only businessman in the race.
“We have too many career politicians in Washington who have never created a job,” Poliquin said. “I’m the only candidate with 35 years of experience growing the economy and creating jobs.”
Cain touted her track record in the state Legislature during her closing statement, again attempting to reinforce her ability to work across the aisle and dig into the budgets.
The fourth and final debate will be held in Portland on Thursday night and broadcast on NBC.
Last night’s debate is up on WAGM-TV’s website, which is here: