A debate stalemate lingers in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, with no dates set between Republican Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain despite many offers.
The race for Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s open seat is the last of Maine’s marquee November matchups without confirmed televised debates so far, as the party hopefuls spar over the race’s third candidate, independent Blaine Richardson, who Poliquin wants excluded from forums while Cain wants him included.
So far, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network has invited all three candidates on the ballot as a matter of policy. However, other networks may not include Richardson, a Belfast conservative.
But don’t expect his status to decide whether Cain and Poliquin debate, said Ronald Schmidt, a political science professor at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, since both candidates need to boost their name recognition as they battle to replace an incumbent.
“My guess is that however it goes forward, both of them will participate no matter what they say beforehand,” Schmidt said.
October is already a busy month for state politics followers: Despite wrangling of their own over debate conditions, Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler will share a stage at least six times from Oct. 8 through Oct. 21.
In the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Susan Collins and longshot Democrat Shenna Bellows, five televised debates are set for nine days starting Oct. 20, starting in Presque Isle and ending in Portland, according to the campaigns.
But neither Cain, a state senator from Orono, nor Poliquin, a former state treasurer from Oakland, have set a date after invitations from television stations across the state.
In July, Poliquin’s campaign proposed conditions that would make it hard for independent conservative Blaine Richardson of Belfast, the third candidate on the ballot, to participate in debates, saying the independent isn’t “a credible candidate.” Cain and Richardson responded with a joint press conference to condemn Poliquin for that.
WAGM, Presque Isle’s CBS affiliate, will require participants to hit the 10 percent mark in two polls before the debate, likely leaving Richardson out. Chris Weimer, the station’s news director, said in an email that such a standard is needed to guard against “unreasonable situations in the future,” such as debates in races with many candidates.
WMTW, Portland’s ABC affiliate, says it has invited the party candidates and is considering inviting Richardson at this time, said Amy Beveridge, the news director.
But Matthew McDonald, Richardson’s campaign manager, said stations not inviting the candidate show a lack of respect for Maine’s independent streak.
“I just question their motives,” McDonald said. “If he’s on the ballot, why not let him have a discussion?”
While Richardson isn’t likely to make a large dent in the race, observers have said he could have enough of a following to take votes from the Republican in a race that could be close. That could explain why Poliquin and Cain differ on his inclusion. But for now, the candidates are sticking to their guns.
“All three candidates need to be invited,” said Dan Cashman, Cain’s campaign spokesman. “It’s really a matter of fairness and we need to make sure all three candidates are heard from.”
And Matthew Hutson, Poliquin’s campaign manager, said his candidate “is absolutely looking forward” to debating Cain, but the campaign is still evaluating debate criteria.
“If she says, ‘No, I don’t want to debate anymore'” if all candidates aren’t invited, “then we can’t control that,” Hutson said.
Michael Shepherd — 370-7652