Republican Bruce Poliquin, who won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in Tuesday’s election over Democrat Emily Cain, said Wednesday he will “work with anybody,” including Democrats and independents, who want to fix problems.

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland House of Pizza, Poliquin took a moderate tack in his remarks.

“I’m not going down there to go to cocktail parties or hang out with special interests,” Poliquin said. “I’m going down there to fight for the interests of people in Maine and I will do that with every breath in my body.”

Poliquin’s win puts the seat in the Republican column for the first time in 20 years after an expensive race.

The former state treasurer, 61, from Oakland, won 47 percent of votes to Cain’s 42 percent, with 93 percent of precincts reporting on Wednesday afternoon in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Cain said people need “to come together, find consensus and stay at the table until problems are solved.”

“Last night we experienced a national wave of frustration with a Congress that has refused to come to the table to solve problems, and people are right to be upset,” she said. “I hope that Washington listens to the message that was sent and puts aside partisanship and politics and starts putting people first.”

Cain “graciously” called Poliquin to concede early Wednesday morning, said Matthew Hutson, the Republican’s campaign manager.

She won the district’s urban centers of Lewiston and Bangor handily, but Poliquin carried most of its rural areas, particularly in Kennebec and Androscoggin counties.

Poliquin is best-known for a brand of conservatism that he couches as being from a businessman’s perspective: He’s hawkish on debt, opposing tax increases and most of federal Affordable Care Act.

His win came in a year where national Republicans widened their House majority and won the U.S. Senate in a tough midterm year for Democratic President Barack Obama. National Republicans spent $1 million to boost Poliquin in his race.

It’s a disappointing defeat for Democrats: Cain, a 34-year-old state senator from Orono, hadn’t lost a legislative election in 10 years before Tuesday and out-raised Poliquin slightly during the campaign.

Poliquin’s result is impressive, since he also fended off a reasonably strong showing from independent Blaine Richardson, who had 11 percent of votes. Observers have long thought the conservative may swing a tight election Cain’s way.

Bryce Hubbard, 18, of Knox, voted for his first time on Tuesday. He has a developmental disability and reached out to all the candidates in the district. Poliquin called him back. They spoke multiple times, and Hubbard felt that he was able to share his ideas with the candidate.

“It’s about time someone understands,” Hubbard said. “I felt like he listened to my ideas, and I listened to his.”

When he takes the seat in January, Poliquin will be the first Republican to represent the district since Olympia Snowe gave up the seat in 1995, after she won the first of her three terms in the U.S. Senate.

But they’re very different people: She was a moderate who spent 16 years in the House, while he’s an ardent conservative who has spent an eventful four years in politics after a long career in New York City investment management, losing primaries for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2012.

Ever since he entered Maine’s political scene, Poliquin has derided opponents as liberal career politicians. Despite that, it was Poliquin’s time in state government — as state treasurer from 2011 to 2013 — that gave him his biggest political platform to date.

Poliquin was born into a Catholic family in Waterville, first attending public schools, but later winning a scholarship to Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and going to Harvard University en route to a career in investing in New York City.

In 1989, he bought a home in Maine with his wife, Jane Carpenter. But in 1992, his wife drowned on a vacation to Puerto Rico. Their son, Sam, now 23, was a baby. Poliquin has said that event helped shape his anti-abortion views.

In the treasurer’s office, he was one of the main faces of Republican fiscal policy after the election of Gov. Paul LePage in 2010, when the party took control of the Maine Legislature and passed tax cuts and state employee pension reforms cheered by Poliquin and opposed by most Democrats.

Poliquin also set his sights on the inner workings of quasi-state agencies, including the Maine State Housing Authority. There, Republicans questioned the fiscal management of a longtime Democratic bureaucrat who directed it. She resigned in 2012 amid pressure.

Through appointments, LePage and Poliquin worked to take over the authority’s board, championing a package of cost-saving changes to the scoring system that awards projects to low-income housing developing rehabilitated historic properties.

But while in office, his property was at the center of controversy. He was criticized for putting 10 acres of property on his coastal Georgetown estate in a state tax-break program meant to encourage commercial logging, which a deed on his property largely restricted.

He was never found to have violated any rules, and he eventually moved it out of the program. Cain hit the controversy in television ads, but Poliquin minimized it over and over, calling it a personal attack motivated by his policy stances.

The four debates in the race were hotly contested, with Poliquin turning many questions into attacks on Cain’s record. The two divided on many issues, from guns to abortion rights.

He often said she was too liberal for the district, citing her support of expanding background checks on gun purchases and energy taxes he said could “kill jobs.”

Poliquin was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and that may have helped in the 2nd District, which encompasses 80 percent of Maine geographically and its northern population half. It helped defeat a referendum question on Tuesday that would have banned the use of bait, dogs and traps to hunt bears in Maine — activities that mostly take place in the district.

Dan Stevens, 59, of Newport, who runs the town’s sanitary district, voted against the referendum, citing economic impact on guides around his camp in the North Woods. He made a last-minute choice to vote for Poliquin. Why?

“NRA,” Stevens said.

Correspondent John Harlow contributed to this report.

 

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

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Twitter: @mikeshepherdme