The campaign for Maine’s 2nd District seat in the U.S. House has become a disappointing affair dominated by big-money ads from outside groups simplistically painting the candidate they oppose as dangerous and out of step with 2nd-District voters.
But at its core, the race is one between a candidate who understands the intricacies of policymaking and feels no need to run away from or recast her decade-long record in public service and a candidate who goes negative at every turn without giving voters a clear idea of where he stands.
The choice in Maine’s 2nd District is a clear one: Democrat Emily Cain deserves to be the 2nd District’s next representative in the U.S. House. The state senator from Orono is best prepared to advocate for Maine’s 2nd District and take on the hard work of governing — rather than grandstanding — to get important work done for Maine residents.
Cain’s Republican opponent, Bruce Poliquin, has tried hard to cast Cain’s decade of service in the Maine Legislature as a liability, frequently deriding her as a “career politician.” But it’s Cain’s service in the Maine Legislature that prepares her to serve in the U.S. Congress and make government work for her constituents.
In the Maine House and Senate, Cain set herself apart as a thoughtful legislator who dove into the difficult work of state budgeting early in her tenure. Negotiating a state budget involves give-and-take and forging close, productive relationships with members of the opposing party. It involves long hours of behind-the-scenes work in order to craft a deal palatable to both sides of the aisle. And it involves a mentality that’s largely lacking in Congress: that it’s more worthwhile to engage — rather than attack — the opposing side.
Cain also distinguished herself for astute policymaking that emphasized the prudent use of state resources to promote economic growth. She became a key player in starting Maine on a path to make consistent and significant investments in research and development — investments that have yielded private-sector dividends. Unfortunately, the state has not maintained the needed levels of investment. She also became an articulate advocate for evaluating the effectiveness of the state’s slew of tax credits and tax breaks aimed at sparking economic development.
We doubt that Poliquin would be nearly as effective an advocate for the 2nd District as Cain. Throughout the campaign, the former state treasurer has run on a simplistic message of less spending, less debt and more jobs without discussing the intricacies and difficult choices his supposed platform would entail.
As he evokes fiscal responsibility, one of Poliquin’s lasting legacies as state treasurer is his role in effectively shutting down a state program that allows nonprofit organizations to borrow money through the Maine Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority. In Augusta, MaineGeneral Medical Center will be left paying $42 million more over the next 30 years to finance its expansion than it would have if the money came through the authority. That’s $42 million more from Medicare, the state’s Medicaid program, and employers’ and residents’ pockets.
What’s most disappointing about the Poliquin candidacy is that, beyond a few key positions that allowed Poliquin to claim the right wing of the Republican Party in his primary fight last spring, he has offered more in the way of platitudes than policy positions that would actually allow voters to make an informed choice.
Independent Blaine Richardson has acted respectfully in his low-budget campaign, but we simply think Cain is the better choice.
We’re not naive in thinking Cain can have the same impact on the U.S. Congress that she has had on the much smaller and more transient Maine Legislature. But 2nd District residents deserve a representative who has enough faith in government to ensure that it’s working for them.
Cain offers a positive vision for how government can help set the stage for future economic growth while acknowledging the need for sensible reforms to boost fiscal responsibility. Maine’s 2nd District would be the beneficiary of her service.