PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Concerns about a stagnant job market and rising taxes in Aroostook County took center stage in the second debate between incumbent 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and challenger Emily Cain.
Poliquin, a first-term incumbent Republican seeking re-election, and Cain, a Democrat, went back on forth for an hour answering questions submitted by Aroostook County residents in a debate hosted by WAGM-TV in Presque Isle.
The candidates discussed issues ranging from preserving Social Security and Medicare to addressing climate change, national security and the opiate crisis. They also spent time criticizing each other — as has been frequent in this rematch that has drawn nearly $11 million in political advertising from outside groups.
Poliquin defended his background in business and his voting record and advocacy in areas such as pressuring the Department of Defense to source athletic training shoes from New Balance, which employs 900 people in central Maine.
Poliquin argued that energy costs and taxes are the two biggest factors holding back rural Maine’s economy. “The cost of energy has to go down, and taxes need to go lower,” he said, adding that he supports repealing the estate tax.
Cain, who previously spent 10 years in the Legislature representing parts of Penobscot County, defended her record in state government and cited her work crafting the 2011 bipartisan budget that included “the largest tax cut in Maine’s history.”
Cain said she wants to “help bring good jobs back to Maine,” particularly in energy and the environment, “areas where our economy has opportunity to grow.”
The debate also featured multiple exchanges where the candidates questioned the other’s record and intentions.
Poliquin called Cain a “career politician” and likened her to U.S. Rep. and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco who he called “an extreme liberal politician.”
Cain argued that Poliquin, a former financial manager, is backed by Wall Street interests and has taken a position against the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal only after it became politically practical.
Wednesday’s debate was the second of three scheduled between Cain and Poliquin. The first was broadcast Tuesday on Maine Public. The last is set for Oct. 26 on WCSH and WLBZ, the NBC affiliates in Portland and Bangor.