On Wednesday, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci jumped into the 2016 race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat. On Thursday, Jeff Cammack already knew that he’ll vote for him.

The move by Baldacci, 50, sets up what could be an uphill primary challenge against Emily Cain, a former state senator from neighboring Orono who was the party’s nominee for the seat in 2014 before losing to Republican Bruce Poliquin.

But his last name looms large in Bangor-area politics, and he could eat into Democratic support there that Cain has seen in the past. Baldacci, a lawyer, is the youngest of seven siblings, including former Gov. John Baldacci and Penobscot County Commissioner Peter Baldacci.

Cammack, a Democrat from Dedham who was Bangor’s fire chief for 16 years before retiring in 2012, worked on 911-call issues with John, county issues with Peter and municipal issues with Joe and Gerry, another brother who served as a councilor. He said the Baldaccis are “approachable. They’ve got no airs, and you can trust them.”

“I’ve voted for the Baldacci folks, and I’ll continue to support them,” Cammack said. “I know them. I’ve got that relationship.”

But Cain has her local contingent too, including Rep. Ryan Tipping-Spitz, D-Orono. He said her experience running the districtwide campaign will serve her well and that she “has done an amazing job representing Orono in the past.”

“I’ve seen her fight for a lot of issues that I care about, and I think she’s going to do an excellent job in Congress,” he said.

In 2014, Cain dominated the area that could be a battleground next year. In her successful primary against Troy Jackson, of Allagash, she won 84 percent of votes in Bangor, Old Town, Orono and Veazie while getting 66 percent districtwide.

On Wednesday, Baldacci filed paperwork to run for the seat with the Federal Election Commission. His campaign didn’t respond to a Thursday interview request, but an announcement on his campaign website said he “wants to go to Washington to make sure that all of us get a fair shake from our government.”

In an email, Cain spokeswoman Sarah Russell indicated a focus on the general election, saying Cain has been endorsed by 150 people across the district and “remains focused on defeating Congressman Poliquin and fighting for greater opportunities for Mainers” in the district. Poliquin adviser Brent Littlefield said in a statement that Democrats are “re-arranging the deck chairs” to run a campaign “fueled with extreme liberal special interest money.”

The 2nd District — which covers 10 counties in northern and western Maine and part of Kennebec County — has been named a top priority for both parties in 2016. It has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992 and was held by that party for 20 years before Poliquin’s election.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ campaign arm, is backing Cain. Cynthia Dill, a Bangor Daily News political commentator and former Democratic state senator from Cape Elizabeth, said that while a primary will help boost both candidates’ profiles as Poliquin gets headlines in Washington, national support gives Cain “the strong advantage” in the primary.

But Gerry Palmer, chairman of the Bangor City Democratic Committee, isn’t so sure. He’s neutral on the race because of his position, but he served with Baldacci on the City Council and he said the candidate and his family are “extremely well-known and they’re very focused.”

“I think it’s going to be a very competitive race, and they’re both very strong candidates,” Palmer said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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