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Maine's 2nd Congressional District Has Backed Obama And Trump


Political oddsmakers identify dozens of congressional districts that are in play, as it's said - could go either way and will determine which party wins the House this fall. One of those seats is the 2nd District of Maine. Its voters supported President Trump in 2016, but supported President Obama just four years before that. Let's travel there with NPR's Brian Naylor.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The 2nd District of Maine stretches across a vast swath of the state, with deeply wooded forests and small fishing villages. Mostly rural, it's not just the Maine of lobsters and lighthouses but more hardscrabble, with shuttered mills and one of the worst opioid problems in the nation. Democrats think it could swing blue again. One afternoon last week, their candidate, Jared Golden, greeted workers at the afternoon shift change at the Verso paper mill in Jay.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hi. How are you doing, sir?

NAYLOR: Golden is a 36-year-old former Marine, who signed up after 9/11 and served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. In an interview at a nearby hospital, Golden said his top issue is health care.

JARED GOLDEN: If you go back to May of 2017 with the Republican effort to repeal the ACA, very deep cuts to Medicaid contained in that House bill. And then consider the fact that Bruce Poliquin voted for that bill.

NAYLOR: Golden wants to extend Medicare coverage to people aged 55 and believes there should eventually be universal coverage. That position has been attacked by Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin in TV ads like this one.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Radical Golden will let government control your health care, ending Medicare as we know it, doubling taxes.

NAYLOR: We reached out to Poliquin's campaign repeatedly for an interview but got no response. The 64-year-old is running for his third term as the only remaining Republican in the House from New England. In a debate earlier this month, he cited his votes to lower taxes and cut regulations while accusing Golden of being in the pocket of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and others.


BRUCE POLIQUIN: I'll tell you what I really object to, is all of this out-of-state money by Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters and all these dark money groups that are pouring money in here trying to convince the people of Maine and attack me and say I'm something I'm not.

NAYLOR: Golden has repeatedly asserted he will not vote for Pelosi for speaker, saying it's time for new leadership. In that same debate, Poliquin, whom Trump endorsed for re-election in a tweet, refused to state whether he voted for Trump in 2016.


POLIQUIN: That's my business. I work with everybody, Republicans and Democrats, as a business professional, but I do not tell anybody who I vote for.

NAYLOR: I asked Golden if he thinks Democrats should serve as a check on Trump if they win the majority.

GOLDEN: I don't view my role as resistance. I like to say I'm a Marine - no better friend, no worse enemy. If the president does something that helps Maine, I'm with him. If he does something that hurts Maine, I'm going to stick up for our state.

NAYLOR: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the two major candidates and the parties and political action committees supporting them have dropped over $8 million into the district. Two independents in the race are not expected to be a factor but could be because of a wild card. Maine now has ranked choice voting in federal elections. Mark Brewer is a political science professor at the University of Maine.

MARK BREWER: If you were to go and get your ballot today and vote, you would be - you'd be given the option to rank those four candidates one through four, one being your top choice and four being your last choice.

NAYLOR: If no candidate receives a majority, the last place finisher is eliminated. Their votes would then go to whomever the eliminated candidate's voters ranked as their second choice. No one knows for certain how this will play out, and Poloquin has refused to say whether he'll honor the results should he lose. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Lewiston, Maine.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAJI'S "VENOM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.
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