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Les Otten: Maine GOP should back Bill Schneider, be wary of Bruce Poliquin

Posted June 07, 2012, at 5:05 p.m.
Last modified June 08, 2012, at 6:10 a.m.

Maine Republicans face an important choice on Tuesday. The Obama administration is bearing down hard on the business community and Maine is feeling the pinch. This election to succeed Olympia Snowe as a voice for Maine in the U.S. Senate could be the deciding factor in the future of our nation. Republicans need to make sure the candidate they choose is up to the task.

From my vantage point, this GOP primary comes down to three top-tier candidates: Bill Schneider, Charlie Summers and Bruce Poliquin. I personally have decided to support Attorney General Schneider. Schneider is honorable, a veteran, a family man and a leader among his peers. I believe he possesses the integrity, the intelligence and the leadership that this country needs to set the Senate back on the right path.

I also believe Summers to be a man of integrity and I think he’d serve Maine well. I think many of the other candidates are of the highest caliber. The candidacy of Poliquin is the one that gives me pause though.

I ran against Poliquin for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010. I want to voice some sincere concerns about the choice Republicans will make on Tuesday, not based on personality or old scores but based on my belief that Poliquin is not the right candidate to lead us forward.

Our Republican nominee will face a tough fight in the general election. Our candidate will need to distinguish himself from both the Democrat and the independent. This may be difficult for Poliquin.

We know that Poliquin was on the board of directors of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. This group was the lead environmentalist organization to campaign against the widening of the Maine Turnpike. Poliquin’s $10,000 was the campaign’s single largest donor.

Many believe that for Republicans to win this year we will need to show the Maine people we are in touch with the majority of voters, not part of the elite 1 percent. Poliquin will have a very hard time. Schneider will not.

Unlike Poliquin, Schneider did not use a helicopter to build his house on a island.

Unlike Poliquin, Schneider never used his time and money to sue to keep his neighbor from expanding his business. When Ocean Park Campground wanted to grow, Bruce fought them for years, putting them through what they described as hell.

Poliquin didn’t like Ocean Park’s customers because they “disturbed his enjoyment of his beachfront cottage.” Suing legitimate businesses to keep vacationers out of your neighborhood is not exactly the kind of behavior you’d expect from a pro-business conservative.

And there is the question of consistency. Poliquin made a donation of $500 to Hand Gun Control Inc. and in January 2010 was the only Republican that favored mandatory background checks. Amazingly two months later he said he would not support new gun restrictions.

Schneider, a disabled West Point graduate, still can shoot the lights out on the target range and supports our Second Amendment rights.

In January 2010, Poliquin said of a negative ad in the gubernatorial primary: “In the strongest possible terms I deplore the … advertisement … there is no place for this type of attack ad.” Yet 60 days later he attacked with the same false ad he previously condemned.

I don’t think Poliquin is a bad person. I respect his service to our state. I simply believe that these points are too important to ignore as Republicans decide who our Senate candidate should be. We do, after all, have a choice.

My choice is a man who has served his country, his family and his state. Schneider has not spent his life trying to get ahead of his fellow citizens; he has spent his life in the service of his fellow citizens. He is a proud, true conservative who believes in our country first and himself second. That is the kind of person we need to put forward so we can show all of Maine what being a Republican means.

Les Otten of Bethel competed in the 2010 Republican primary for governor.

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