The race for the Republican nomination pits a former state senator and small-business owner, who often invokes the legacy of former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, against a former state treasurer and pension fund manager fond of saying he wants to clean up problems left behind by career politicians.
Both candidates, former state Senate President Kevin Raye and former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, are hoping for success in their third attempt at a major elective office. We believe Raye, who ran for the 2nd District seat in 2002 and again in 2012, deserves the chance to appear on the ballot this November.
In the Maine Senate, Raye proved himself a passionate advocate for his Washington County district, forcefully advocating for — and securing — additional education funding for rural schools and successfully opposing the proposed closure of the minimum-security, 150-inmate Downeast Correctional Facility. We would expect the same sort of advocacy for Maine’s 2nd District from Raye in Congress.
Raye’s collaborative style could also prove itself an asset and contribute, in a small way, to changing the tone in a House Republican caucus that has essentially brought progress on major congressional activity to a halt.
In his time as Senate president, Raye demonstrated an important appreciation for building relationships that stretch across party lines. He and legislative leaders from both parties met regularly for meals — a tradition that unfortunately hasn’t persisted in the current state Legislature. Raye, a Perry resident, speaks articulately about a need for Congress to be more than a “debating society” and says he would reach out to fellow freshmen in Congress for regular, relationship-building get-togethers.
We don’t agree with everything Raye proposes, including a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He says he supports some of the popular provisions — such as one that bars insurance companies from enrolling people with pre-existing health conditions — that the law’s less popular individual mandate makes possible.
Unlike his opponent, however, Raye has shown some willingness to stray from his party’s orthodoxy. He hasn’t signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise taxes — something that inhibits sensible and pragmatic policymaking. He also supports a woman’s right to choose, at least early in her pregnancy, unlike Poliquin.
Asked his thoughts on the damaging Republican budget proposal issued by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Raye brings up thoughtful concerns about its proposed cuts to Pell grants — need-based financial aid for low-income college students. Poliquin says he supports the plan and would even like to see it balance the federal budget in a shorter timeframe than Ryan proposes.
A conversation with Poliquin brings up only a reflexive push to balance the federal budget regardless of the consequences for the nation’s economy, people in need and state budgets. We fear Poliquin, if elected, would simply become part of the Republican contingent in the House that forced a federal government shutdown last October.
Raye offers the GOP the best chance to put forward a candidate who is willing to stray from party orthodoxy when it proves damaging, serious about making Congress work and serious about advocating for the needs of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.