U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is comfortably ahead in the money race for his 2016 re-election bid for Maine’s 2nd District with the Republican outraising Democrat Emily Cain by more than five times from January through the end of March.

It’s a huge haul for Poliquin, who raised $700,000 to Cain’s $136,000 in 2015’s first quarter. It’s a sign that their likely rematch will be a larger priority for their parties than it was in 2014. That was still the most expensive U.S. House race in Maine’s history with outside groups spending $3 million supporting and opposing candidates.

Poliquin exceeded 2013’s biggest first-quarter haul from a U.S. House freshman, which belonged to Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla, who raised $558,000, according to Roll Call. Both Murphy and Poliquin serve on the House Financial Services Committee, whose members often raise more than their colleagues with financial industry backing.

The campaigns haven’t released their filings, which contain details about donors and aren’t due to the Federal Election Commission until Wednesday.

Poliquin had more time to raise money than Cain, who entered the 2016 race in March, but his campaign said on Monday that more than $400,000 of his money came from individuals and most of the money was raised in March with most of the rest coming from political action committees and other candidate committees.

“While working on issues important to Maine’s 2nd District families, I’m grateful that my campaign committee is receiving strong support to build a winning re-election effort so this work can continue,” Poliquin said in a statement.

However, Cain’s campaign said her total demonstrates “enthusiasm and strong, local grassroots support” with more than 95 percent of donors contributing $250 or less and 80 percent of donors coming from Maine.

“I’m honored and humbled by the strong support and enthusiastic response we’ve already received from people all across Maine,” Cain said in a statement.

This campaign has heated up much earlier than it did in 2014 after Democratic incumbent Mike Michaud announced an ultimately unsuccessful run for governor. Then, Cain announced for the race in June and Poliquin committed in August, and they combined to raise $3.7 million during the campaign.

Poliquin, of Oakland, won with 45 percent of votes in November — a large share, given that independent conservative Blaine Richardson won 11 percent — and got to Washington in January.

So far, he has received national attention by breaking with his party in not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He opposes the law, but he has said he wants to see a conservative alternative before repeal.

Cain, who had been pushed to run again by national Democrats virtually since Election Day, surprised some pundits with the early declaration, but the former state senator has laid low for the most part since then.

The parties are gearing up for a competitive race in 2016, a presidential year. In February, the campaign arm for House Republicans put Poliquin and 11 other party lawmakers in a program to aid incumbents who could be vulnerable. Earlier in the month, he made a list of the Democrats’ top targets.

While the rural 2nd District is more conservative than the rest of Maine, it has nonetheless voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1992. However, no sitting congressperson from the district has lost re-election in the modern era.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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