HARTLAND — The day after the Republican Party officially nominated Donald Trump as its nominee for president, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin refused to answer multiple questions as to whether he will support or endorse his party’s controversial standard-bearer.

Poliquin, running for re-election in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, toured the Tasman Leather Group factory Wednesday morning in Hartland and would not comment on Trump’s nomination the previous night. Poliquin earlier had not responded directly when asked during the campaign whom he supports for president.

Tuesday night, party delegates formally nominated real estate tycoon Trump for president at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I don’t get involved in the presidential election. They’re doing that in Cleveland,” Poliquin said Wednesday when asked directly if he supports Trump. “I’m here to learn as much as I can about leather making by the folks here at Tasman.”

Poliquin’s opponent in the November election for the 2nd District seat, Democrat Emily Cain, said in an emailed statement Wednesday that it was “disappointing” Poliquin would not say whether he supports Trump. Cain was an early supporter of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and her campaign previously had taken shots at Poliquin for “caginess” on the Trump question.

“Why won’t he just tell us his beliefs, like Senator Collins has done?” Cain said in the Wednesday statement. “How hard is it to answer a simple question? I don’t always agree with my friends and neighbors, but I will always be honest and open about my beliefs.”


U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also has not endorsed Trump outright, but she has discussed his candidacy publicly, telling CNN on Tuesday that she was troubled by comments Trump has made in the past that were either discriminatory or demeaning to minorities, women and people with disabilities. Collins said she was undecided as to who she would vote for in the fall — saying she is “not completely closing the door” on voting for Clinton instead of Trump — but that it was “more likely that I would decide to write in a candidate or choose another approach.”

Collins, speaking from the GOP convention, said she was looking forward to hearing what Trump had to say at the convention Thursday night and whether he would be able to reach out to groups he had insulted.

“There are some things that Donald Trump has said that I completely agree with. For example, his focus on jobs and relieving the stagnation of wages in this country,” Collins told CNN. “The fact that there have been some poorly negotiated trade agreements that have cost us good manufacturing jobs in my state and others. On those issues, I think he is on the right track. But there are other areas where I disagree with him.”

Other members of Maine’s congressional delegation have endorsed Clinton. U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, did so last week; and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, endorsed her last year.

Poliquin’s campaign previously provided a statement on the presidential race that does not mention Trump by name, saying it’s “critical the next president of the United States is helpful in creating jobs and growing the economy” and that “only one candidate now has been a major job creator.”

Political observers say the presidential race is sure to affect the 2nd district contest between Poliquin and Cain, which a Portland Press Herald/ Maine Sunday Telegram poll found last month to be virtually tied. While Cain and others have criticized Poliquin for not saying whether he supports Trump — Poliquin did not attend Trump’s appearance at a rally in Bangor last month — others say it’s smart for the first-term congressman to focus instead on the 2nd district and not presidential politics.


Poliquin’s Wednesday tour of the Hartland tannery came two days before the business was scheduled to receive a national award recognizing its efforts to do business with the military and employ more veterans.

The factory in the midst of downtown Hartland, one of 15 owned by Tasman Industries, employs 156 people and operates 24 hours a day producing leather hides used in manufacturing, including by L.L. Bean, New Balance and Rancourt & Co., a shoe manufacturer in Lewiston.

“This is a major employer in central Maine,” said Poliquin, who would later visit Industrial Fabrication, a steel frames manufacturer in Newport. “It’s important to come here, meet with management, meet with the folks on the line doing the work so I can understand as best I can what they’re doing and how I can help them.”

Tasman is scheduled to be presented with the Seven Seals Award on Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense for its support of the military’s reserve and guard components.

Mike Michaud, a Democrat who was Poliquin’s predecessor in the 2nd District and is now the assistant secretary of the U.S. Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, a program of the Department of Labor, also will be on hand for the presentation of the award, as well as Brig. Gen. Gerard Bolduc, commander of the Maine Air National Guard.

Norman Tasman, president and CEO of Tasman Industries, said Wednesday that employing more veterans is one of his goals. Ten work at the Hartland facility, according to Travis Hill, Tasman’s director of marketing and sales in Maine.


Tasman also is scheduled to participate this year in the state’s Hire-A-Vet campaign, which last year placed more than 200 military veterans in jobs across the state, said Hill, a former employment coordinator for the Hero 2 Hired program, which is focused on placing military veterans in jobs nationwide.

“We’re trying to start a veterans program, although right now it’s just in the very early stages,” said Hill, who is also a member of the Air National Guard. “(Tasman’s) whole thing is their product is made in the USA, it’s made in Maine; support our troops. That’s really what drew me in here. I took a tour as a service member and it was so patriotic, it made me want to work here.”

Tasman supplies leather for several outfitters of military boots, including Original Footwear, McRae Footwear and Rocky Boots. It also supplies leather to New Balance, which makes athletic footwear in Massachusetts and Maine. New Balance plants in Skowhegan and Norridgewock, as well as Norway, employ 900 in Maine.

Maine’s congressional delegation, including Poliquin, has been working to ensure that the U.S. military outfits its troops with American-made athletic footwear, such as the shoes made by New Balance, and recently worked to get language into the national defense spending bill that would ensure the Department of Defense complies with the Berry Amendment, which requires all military recruits to be outfitted with American-made apparel.

The law allows the military to issue footwear vouchers that do not have to be used on American-made athletic shoes because the Department of Defense says there are no athletic shoes made in the U.S. that meet the requirement of being made from American-made materials. New Balance says it has developed a shoe that qualifies.

Poliquin said Wednesday’s visit highlighted the effect that supporting American-made products and fulling implementing the Berry Amendment would have on the local economy.


“Right in this area we have 900 of the best shoemakers in the world (at New Balance),” he said. “They use Tasman leather to make their shoes, so it’s not just Tasman; it’s all the other businesses associated with them that can benefit from an American-made product. If we can encourage the military to use more American-made leather, it will certainly benefit more jobs.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368


Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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