BREWER, Maine — One of the Republican candidates for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat promised never to support raising taxes if elected, while the other said he couldn’t make such a commitment.
During their debate on Wednesday morning, Bruce Poliquin criticized Kevin Raye for not signing a pledge stating he would not vote to raise taxes.
“This is a very clear example of how I differ from my opponent,” said Poliquin, a former state treasurer from Oakland. “I have signed this pledge and I will again.
“Our federal government is flat broke,” he told an audience of about 40 people seated around tables at Jeff’s Catering.
Raye, a former state Senate president from Perry, said he does not support raising taxes, but he does not want to be bound by that promise.
“I do believe that signing such a pledge is not responsible,” he said. “How do we know that we’re not going to face a crisis that we haven’t even conceived of now?”
Both candidates in the June 10 primary emphasized their business backgrounds and tried to present themselves as the future congressman who would control spending at the federal level and improve the economy in Maine’s more rural district.
They agreed that both the Affordable Care Act and the U.S. tax code need to be reformed, that a second national park would unnecessarily hurt the forest industry, and that an east-west highway through Maine would be an economic boon to the state if it had local support.
But they made clear that their style of achieving such goals would be different if elected.
Raye said Maine needs a leader who will “move past ‘my way or the highway,’” and work across the aisle.
“I have a record of producing results,” he said after the debate.
Raye sought to present himself as the candidate that more Mainers from the 2nd Congressional District could identify with.
“My opponent talks about his time on Wall Street,” he said. “By comparison, my time in business was on Main Street.”
Raye and his wife run a mustard company in Eastport called Raye’s Mustard Mill. Poliquin helped build New York City-based asset management firm Avatar Investors Associates Corp., then returned to Maine, where he was involved in several small businesses before being elected state treasurer by the Legislature.
Poliquin told attendees that his direct style and background in finance put him in a better position to win the general election.
“We must have someone who’s going to stay on offense,” he said, referring to the general election, which likely will be a contest against state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, or state Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, who debated at the same venue last week.
Poliquin made repeated jabs at “career politicians,” asking the audience rhetorically, “How do we get someone down in Washington who’s not going to become part of the soup?”
After the debate, Poliquin said Mainers don’t need a “career politician who’s already lost this seat twice,” referring to Raye, who worked for former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe for 17 years and served four terms as a state senator. He lost a congressional race to Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, in 2002 and 2012.
Poliquin also sought to distinguish himself by saying that he was in favor of term limits at the federal level and slipping in the fact that he is pro-life during his reponse to the last question, which was about renewable energy.
When asked about term limits later, Raye said term limits in Augusta have strengthened bureaucrats and lobbyists, since they have more institutional knowledge than lawmakers.
Wednesday’s debate was hosted by the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and was moderated by Tony Ronzio, director of news and audience for BDN Maine. The debate was sponsored by the Bangor Daily News and Bangor Natural Gas.
Correction: Poliquin was not appointed by LePage, but elected by the state Legislature.