BANGOR, Maine — Former State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin of Oakland has won the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, according to an analysis of election tallies by the Bangor Daily News.
The win marked Poliquin’s first successful campaign after he lost the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 and the party’s U.S. Senate primary in 2012.
Poliquin held a substantial lead over former Maine Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry throughout Tuesday night.
Unofficial results at 11:45 p.m. showed Poliquin leading Raye with 56 percent of the votes, based on 84 percent of precincts reporting.
Poliquin outpolled Raye in Lewiston and Bangor, the district’s two largest cities.
Poliquin gave a victory speech at approximately 10:40 p.m., in which he said he’ll need the backing of Raye’s supporters if he is to win the general election against Democrat Emily Cain.
“I want to congratulate Kevin for a hard-fought race,” said Poliquin. “We are going to need Kevin, we’re going to need his team, his support and his financial backing to make sure we return the 2nd Congressional seat to Republican hands.”
Poliquin also said that he will always be honest with voters.
“So help me God, I will do what is right. You can trust me, I will tell you the truth and without spin,” said Poliquin to loud applause from his supporters, one of whom suggested a campaign slogan of “Bruce is loose!”
Sharon and Harry Rideout of Hermon said they were drawn to Poliquin because of his honesty.
“He has an enormous amount of integrity,” said Sharon Rideout. “For me it all comes down to one question: Are you truly pro-life?”
Harry Rideout said whatever happens in the primary, he hopes the 2014 general election in November ends the political career of Mike Michaud, who gave up the 2nd Congressional District seat to run for governor.
“We can’t stand any more of that,” said Rideout. “We have to get our country back.”
Raye, at his quieter and more subdued Bangor headquarters on Union Street, said he expected that most Republicans going to the polls on Tuesday were concerned about the national debt, the economy and repealing the Affordable Care Act. He said many primary voters will be looking for the more conservative candidate — and that he’d put his conservative credentials against Poliquin’s or anyone’s.
“He certainly has sought to position himself to the far right,” said Raye of Poliquin before the election results were clear. “If he wins today, I expect he’d have a hard time in the general election.”
Bob Emrich, pastor at the Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth and member of the Christian Civic League’s board of directors, said Tuesday night that Poliquin’s anti-abortion stance helped him in the primary election. He said he and pastors across the 2nd Congressional District urged their parishioners to turn out for Poliquin.
“Evangelicals are much more likely to support a pro-life candidate,” said Emrich, who was at Poliquin’s election night party Tuesday. “Kevin Raye is a good guy. Kevin is with us on most of the issues, but [abortion] is where the big separation is.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Poliquin said being pro-life is his personal belief but that he doesn’t consider it part of his politics.
Raye and Poliquin have been locked in a sometimes bitter primary battle since last year, when the race quickly turned into a contest between Poliquin running as a political outsider claiming to bring a businessman’s approach to Congress and Raye touting his long career of service to northern Maine, first as a paid staff member for former Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and later as a state senator representing Washington County for eight years.
Tuesday’s defeat represents Raye’s third failed bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat. The other two attempts were in 2002 and 2012, and were both won by Democratic U.S. Rep. Michaud. Poliquin waged unsuccessful primary bids for the governorship in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2012.
There is little difference between Raye and Poliquin on many of the issues most Republicans agree on — cutting government spending, lowering taxes, streamlining regulations they say stand in the way of economic development — but a clear choice has emerged for Republican voters when it comes to how they’d behave in Washington.
Raye, in the model of Snowe, has highlighted his collaborative tenure in the Legislature, including two years as Senate president, and said consistently that he will work with others in Congress to find solutions.
“If you take a ‘my way or the highway’ approach and say, this is my position, my feet are in the concrete and I refuse to negotiate, you do nothing to advance your position,” said Raye to the BDN last month.
Poliquin, a self-made millionaire with more than three decades in the investment business, has never balked at labeling himself a fiscal watchdog of the most conservative kind. That includes two years he served as the Maine state treasurer. In recent months Poliquin has attacked Raye for voting in favor of compromise bipartisan state budget bills that included items that politicians from both sides didn’t like.
“Voters want someone who will stand up and be their voice,” said Poliquin.
The campaign grew nasty in the latter stages, with Poliquin labeling Raye a “liberal” and Raye counterpunching with an ad featuring a baby whom the ad claimed had lived longer in the 2nd District than Poliquin, who recently moved to Oakland.
Poliquin will face Democrat Emily Cain, who easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson in that party’s primary.