Democrat Emily Cain will be in Washington, D.C., on Monday for a “wine reception” fundraiser to benefit her 2016 campaign for Maine’s 2nd District at the home of a California congressman.

It comes a year before a potential primary, and heavy-hitting House Democrats are on the guest list, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm.

The group is rallying early around Cain, a former state senator from Orono, after they gave her little help before she lost to U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, in November.

Democrats think 2014 was an aberration and that 2016 will be a different environment with the presidential campaign likely headlined by Democrat Hillary Clinton bringing higher turnout and different, more liberal voters. Last year, 283,000 voters cast ballots in the 2nd District race, 46,000 fewer than in 2012, when President Barack Obama won 53 percent of district votes.

Mark Brewer, a University of Maine political science professor, said external factors should favor Democrats, calling the race a toss-up and Cain a strong candidate.

“That all being said, Poliquin’s going to be tough to beat in November of 2016,” he said.


Poliquin raised an eye-popping $700,000 in 2015’s first three months, five times more than Cain and more than all but one House freshman. He has also gotten attention for some party-bucking votes, including one in January against repealing the Affordable Care Act and one on Friday against granting Obama authority to fast-track a trade deal with Pacific Rim countries.

“I think everybody knows and everybody’s seen that he’s doing quite well on all of the ledgers,” said Brent Littlefield, Poliquin’s political adviser. “The most important of those ledgers is actually serving the people.”

In 2014, outside groups spent nearly $3 million on the race — the most ever in a House race in Maine — but the next race figures to be pricier.

In the last campaign, the DCCC was caught flat-footed, only spending $11,000 to produce an ad against Poliquin that never ran while their counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, spent nearly $1 million to advertise against Cain. She benefited from $440,000 in spending from EMILY’s List, a group that helps elect Democratic women and that endorsed Cain on Tuesday after saying earlier this month that Poliquin was one of their 15 top targets in 2016 for his anti-abortion record.

This time, national Democrats are already heavily involved. The DCCC’s political director, Ian Russell, was in Maine on June 4 and 5 for meetings in Portland, Augusta and Bangor with Cain, her staffers, Pingree, donors and operatives. Cain spokeswoman Sarah Russell called the meetings “a chance to talk about the importance of this race and hear from supporters as we work towards victory in 2016.”

“We’ve been impressed with the strong local support Emily Cain has earned in her district this cycle and last and with her record of getting things done for everyday Mainers,” said DCCC spokesman Matt Thornton in a statement, adding, “She would undoubtedly make an excellent Democratic nominee in 2016.”


She could face a primary challenge from Joe Baldacci, a Bangor city councilor and brother of former Gov. John Baldacci. But Brewer said Baldacci isn’t well-known or different enough from Cain to present much of a challenge for her.

However, Baldacci said he’ll announce whether or not he’s running in July, saying Democratic voters “are not interested in a rerun of the 2014 election.”

“Washington insiders aren’t going to decide this election,” he said. “The people of Maine are.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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