BANGOR, Maine — City Councilor Joe Baldacci isn’t saying whether he’ll challenge former state Sen. Emily Cain for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 race for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But he already is spending money to size up his chances of beating incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, hiring the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm to conduct a telephone poll on his behalf.
Baldacci, brother of former Gov. John Baldacci, posted on social media Tuesday the results of a telephone poll conducted by the PPP. The Raleigh-based firm only polls for Democratic and progressive campaigns on a private basis.
According to Baldacci, who hired the firm to poll more than 1,000 people in the district from April 16 to 19, the baseline question showed him “in a statistical dead heat” with Poliquin.
He posted detailed results of a follow-up question that included a reference to the potential candidates’ stances on Medicare. That question showed Baldacci with a 12-point lead, taking 50 percent of the responses compared to 38 percent for Poliquin and 12 percent unsure.
The poll had a 3.1 percent margin of error, according to Baldacci.
“Bruce Poliquin has voted to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher plan. Joe Baldacci will fight to protect Social Security and Medicare,” the pollsters included in the follow-up question.
Brent Littlefield, a spokesman for Poliquin, disputed the characterization of Poliquin’s position.
“Congressman Bruce Poliquin believes in protecting Social Security and Medicare not only for current retirees but for future generations. Any claims to the contrary are simply false and outrageous. Joe Baldacci then claims to present accurate numbers from the same so-called polling firm which inaccurately and repeatedly predicted Michael Michaud would win the Governor’s race last year. His negative statements about public servant Bruce Poliquin mirror the negative and divisive campaign of Emily Cain which failed last year.”
Baldacci, who declined to say how much he spent on the poll, said that question was based on Poliquin’s support in March for two conservative budget bills. He declined to release the entire poll results to the BDN.
The budgets proposed cutting $5 trillion in spending over the next decade, taking much of it from Medicaid, food stamps and welfare, as well as a repeal the Affordable Care Act and the creation of a voucher system for Medicare.
Poliquin said at the time his votes reflected the fiscally conservative attitudes of the people who put him in office.
Baldacci said Wednesday he is still deciding whether to run for Congress in 2016 and that the polling results tell him a congressional run “is worth considering.”
“A lot of people are encouraging me. A lot of people think I need to get in to raise money, and I hear that. But I’ve got to think about what’s right for me and my family, too,” he said.
While officially undecided, Baldacci already is making rounds with Democratic groups in the state, meeting May 2 with the Washington County Democratic Committee and May 3 with the Waldo County Democratic Committee.
He is said he will attempt to visit Presque Isle within the next month or two and plans to visit Madawaska in the future.
“I’m trying to get around the district and listen to people and to hear what they have to say,” he said.
Without formally introducing it at the City Council, Baldacci also has proposed a minimum wage increase for Bangor as progressive groups push for a statewide minimum wage hike.
If he seeks the Democratic nomination, Baldacci would face Cain of Orono, who announced her 2016 election bid just four months after losing the congressional race to Poliquin.
Cain was not immediately available for comment at her campaign office Wednesday evening.
Littlefield said he was not overly concerned by Baldacci’s polling data.
“What the Bangor councilor does or doesn’t do is really his concern and the concern of the Democratic party that just lost that seat by five points,” Littlefield said.
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.