LEWISTON, Maine — A former Republican congressman is bidding to return to his old seat in Maine, but he must first hold off a challenge from a fellow party member.
Bruce Poliquin represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District from 2015 to 2019 until losing to the current seat holder, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden. Golden’s victory over Poliquin was the first congressional election decided by ranked-choice voting in U.S. history.
This year, Poliquin is hoping to win a rematch over Golden in one of the most closely watched races of the 2022 midterm elections. But first, he must stave off a challenge from Liz Caruso, the first selectman of the tiny town of Caratunk, in the June 14 primary.
“The general is one of the top races in the United States,” said Brent Littlefield, a spokesperson for Poliquin’s campaign.
The 2nd District is a vast, largely rural district that is politically mixed, frequently competitive and includes much of the state’s northern and western area. The largest city in the district is Lewiston, which is 35 miles from Portland and is the largest city in inland Maine with about 37,000 residents. The general election ballot will also include Tiffany Bond, an independent candidate who has filed papers to run.
The district stands in stark contrast to the 1st District in Maine, which is represented by Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree and is strongly liberal. Former President Donald Trump won the 2nd District handily in 2020, the same year Golden was reelected.
Poliquin is a businessman who also served as Maine’s state treasurer for two years before becoming a congressman. He’s running a campaign on promises of curtailing government spending, supporting small businesses and halting undocumented immigration.
Poliquin said he decided to run again because of a Washington agenda he described as “big government socialism” and runaway inflation.
“I came out again from semiretirement because our country and our state are in deep trouble,” he said.
Caruso, in addition to being the top official in a town of about 80, is a former engineer and current Maine guide who said she is running for Congress to return government to the people. She is running a campaign that is to the political right of Poliquin, though they are similar on numerous key issues, including immigration and local control.
“Rural Mainers aren’t looking for the candidate that is the wealthiest. They are looking for the person that will represent them the best,” Caruso said.
Poliquin far outraised Caruso in the lead up to the primary. He has raised more than $2 million while Caruso raised about $37,000.
The primary is likely to be the last of its kind in Maine. The Maine Legislature voted to switch to a semi-open form of primaries in 2024.
However, “we’ll be old school for this one,” said Emily Cook, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of the Secretary of State. That means voters who want to participate in the primary must enroll as Republicans.