Former GOP representative must stop challenging conservatives in Maine

FILE - Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District of Maine, speaks at the Republican State Convention in Augusta, Maine, April 30, 2022.  Poliquin is running against Liz Caruso in the Republican primary.  (AP photo/Robert F. Bucati, file)
FILE - Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District of Maine, speaks at the Republican State Convention in Augusta, Maine, April 30, 2022.  Poliquin is running against Liz Caruso in the Republican primary.  (AP photo/Robert F. Bucati, file)
FILE - Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District of Maine, speaks at the Republican State Convention in Augusta, Maine, April 30, 2022.  Poliquin is running against Liz Caruso in the Republican primary.  (AP photo/Robert F. Bucati, file)

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FILE – Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District of Maine, speaks at the Republican State Convention in Augusta, Maine, April 30, 2022. Poliquin is running against Liz Caruso in the Republican primary. ( Associated Press photo/Robert F. Bucati, file)

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FILE – Bruce Poliquin, Republican candidate for the Second Congressional District of Maine, speaks at the Republican State Convention in Augusta, Maine, April 30, 2022. Poliquin is running against Liz Caruso in the Republican primary. ( Associated Press photo/Robert F. Bucati, file)

LEVISTON, Maine ( Associated Press) — A former Republican congressman is bidding to return to his old seat in Maine, but must first fend off a challenge from a fellow party member.

Bruce Poliquin represented Maine’s second 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 in American history to be decided by rank-choice voting.

This year, Poliquin is hoping to win a rematch on Golden in one of the most-watched races of the 2022 midterm elections. But first, he must survive the challenge of first selector Liz Caruso from the small town of Caratonk in the June 14 primary.

“The General is one of the top races in the United States,” said Brent Littlefield, a spokesman for Poliquin’s campaign.

The Second District is a large, largely rural district that is politically mixed, often competitive and comprises much of the northern and western regions of the state. The district’s largest city is Lewiston, which is 35 miles from Portland and is the largest city in inland Maine with approximately 37,000 residents. The general election ballot will also include an independent candidate, Tiffany Bond, who has filed papers to run.

The district is in contrast to the first district in Maine, represented by Democratic Rep. The Cheli is made by Pingari and it is strongly eclectic. Former President Donald Trump easily won the second district in 2020, with Golden being reelected the same year.

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 to reduce government spending, support small businesses, and stop undocumented immigration.

Poliquin said he decided to run again because of Washington’s agenda, which he described as “big government socialism” and runaway inflation.

“I came out of semi-retirement again because our country and our state are in deep trouble,” he said.

Caruso, in addition to being the top official in a city 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 for Poliquin’s political right, although they are similar on many key issues, including immigration and local control.

“Rural Mainers are not looking for the wealthiest candidate. They are looking for the person who will best represent them,” Caruso said.

Poliquin overtook Caruso ahead of the primary. He has raised over $2 million while Caruso has raised around $37,000.

The primary is likely to be the last of its kind in Maine. The Maine legislature voted to switch primaries to a semi-open form in 2024.

However, “we’ll be old school for this,” said Emily Cook, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of the Secretary of State. That means voters who want to run in the primaries must nominate as Republicans.

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