For the second time in four years, a family law attorney, a longtime businessman and a war veteran are vying for the 2nd Congressional District this fall.

The incumbent, Jared Golden, a Democrat, is facing off against Republican challenger and former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Tiffany Bond, who is unaffiliated with any party. Both Poliquin and Bond spoke with Spectrum News about a variety of issues in advance of the Nov. 8 election. 

After multiple attempts over several weeks to reach Golden through his campaign office for this story, Press Secretary Nick Zeller said “The Congressman’s not going to be able to participate.”

The last time all three candidates shared a ballot was in 2018. Back then, Poliquin was the incumbent, but lost to Golden in the state’s first congressional ranked-choice election. At the time, Poliquin criticized ranked-choice voting as unfairly stacking the election against him.

Now, Poliquin said he believes in the integrity of Maine’s voting system, and said the public have had enough time to absorb and understand how ranked-choice voting works.

“Ranked-choice voting, we now know what it is,” he said. “We didn’t know what it was when it was first used in 2018. We know what it is now, and it’s really easy.”

On political extremism

When asked about extremism in Washington, Bond continued to cast herself as an outsider, saying that tribalism is good for political fundraising, and not much else.

“I think that fundraising money off of pain is much more effective than fundraising it off of hope or fundraising it off of competence,” she said.

Poliquin said both parties are guilty of extreme behavior, and insisted he followed his own instincts, noting he has worked across party lines in the past. He cited legislation he sponsored along with Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-Mass.) in 2016 requiring the defense department to switch to using American-made sneakers, which benefited footwear manufacturer New Balance factories in both Massachusetts and Maine.

“I have a history of working with other Democrats,” he said. “Doesn’t matter to me. For me, it’s all about solving problems. I’m not a political idealogue. I’m here to help the people of Maine, help the people in our second district fix the mess, frankly, that this extreme Democratic Party has created.”

During a televised debate last month on WCSH, Golden said he appreciates the points of view of other parties.

“I happen to be a member of the Democratic Party, but I don’t think we have all the answers,” he said.

On abortion

Bond said “Oh, I’m furious” in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that had made abortion legal under federal law. She likened abortion restriction laws to the government meddling where it doesn’t belong.

“Those are private decisions the government has absolutely no business in, and when we give the government the ability to make decisions over when we cannot terminate a pregnancy, we also give them the ability and the power to determine when we must terminate a pregnancy and that usually doesn’t work out so well for people who are unpopular,” she said.

Bond said she did not support laws that restrict abortion rights.

“We should have no restrictions on that medical procedure,” she said. “If it’s safe, it should be governed the same way any other medical procedures are and it’s nobody’s business but ours.”

Poliquin described himself as pro-life, but said even his personal beliefs took a backseat to the majority of Mainers’ opinions. He noted that Maine has had laws on the books protecting abortion rights for 30 years, and said if that’s what the people continue to want, he will continue to support them.

“It’s the people of this country, of this state, who are the ultimate people who make the decisions,” he said. “Of course, I trust the people of Maine.”

Poliquin applauded the court’s decision to take abortion rights out of the federal government’s hands.

“They decided this highly emotional decision should be made by the people of this country at the state level,” he said. “They decided that nine unelected judges should not be making this decision for the people of this country. They sent it back to the states.” 

During the televised debate, Golden said he would not support a federal abortion ban.

“I’m pro-choice. This is a very personal and private matter, and I support a woman’s right to make that choice for herself,” he said.

On heating oil prices

As experts continue to predict record-high heating oil prices for Mainers this winter, Bond acknowledged something must be done.

“We have people who cannot afford to eat and get warm,” she said.

While Bond agreed adding money to the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was a good idea, a better idea would be encouraging alternative energy and heating sources that have more consistent pricing.

“It is phenomenally difficult to plan your winter bill when you don’t know if your heating oil is going to be a dollar a gallon or four dollars a gallon,” she said.

Bond said she wants to see more federally subsidized programs like the program started locally with a 2019 law and championed by the Mills administration that calls for 100,000 heat pumps to be installed in Maine homes by 2025.

“I think that’s a good choice, but I also think that’s a local choice,” she said. “I think that needs to happen on a much more national scale.” 

Poliquin also agreed that increased LIHEAP funding will help, but said, “that is just a drop in the bucket.”

In the long term, Poliquin, who has a background in business, said the solution to higher fuel oil prices lies in increasing the supply of fuel to the state, and cited that goal as a principal part of his platform. Private companies, not the government, he said, can bring more fuels to America and to Maine, but the federal government needs to do more to encourage those companies.

“Give them incentives,” he said. “Allow them to build and finish pipelines like the Keystone pipeline instead of shutting it down. Reopen our supplies of gasoline and heating oil and kerosene and propane.”

Once that happens, he added, the price issues will resolve themselves, saying, “When you increase the supply you drive down the price.”

At the debate, Golden mentioned support for increasing LIHEAP funding, and said he has asked President Biden to release more oil from the strategic oil reserves.

“What we want is American oil and gas, and American energy independence,” he said.

Other issues

Bond, a family law attorney, said she ranks affordable health care and social services among the issues she is most passionate about, based on her work with families struggling to make ends meet. Such services, she argued, are necessary to get parents and working families off of government assistance. 

For example, Bond said, without adequate childcare, parents have to spend time at home rather than working, which discourages them from re-entering the workforce. A person with a disability who cannot work, she said, can’t get access to health care they need to diagnose their condition and prove they are eligible for disability assistance.

“We have these huge social services cliffs and we do not have a safety network, and that is huge,” she said. “All of these systems are tied together and linked, and they are all collapsing.”

Bond suggested building a coalition in Washington to address problems long term, but in the meantime she will promote small changes. She said she has seen couples fighting in court over spousal support, and thinks changes to the way that support is taxed will help.

Bond also railed against the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. She applauded the concept, but said she believes it needs an overhaul to correct inefficiencies and imbalances that prevent more people from getting better healthcare cheaper.

“We actually spend more per capita than any country and for worse results,” she said. “It’s ridiculous and we can be better than that.” 

Poliquin cited government spending as one of his priorities, criticizing federal spending in bills such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in August. Poliquin contended that such spending will make inflation worse, not better.

“We have to stop this unnecessary wasteful spending that will help lower inflation,” he said. 

Poliquin also advocated for greater border security. As hundreds of political asylum seekers look for permanent housing in Maine, Poliquin said people applying for asylum in the future should remain in Mexico while waiting for a decision, not be allowed into the United States.

“We did that before, and it worked just fine. Remain in Mexico while you apply for asylum,” he said. “Don’t come over the border illegally and then be allowed to stay here, and then folks disappear in the country.”

Poliquin also suggested enforcing Title 42. Originally a part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, the law allows the government to restrict immigration for public health reasons. Finally, he recommended finishing construction of the border wall with Mexico that began during the Trump administration, and still has 240 miles to go.

“Those three pieces work, and when I was there, with the Trump administration, we had the most secure border in 30 years,” he said.

Golden, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq, ranks support for veterans on his website, including expanding services at Togus VA Medical Center, providing more long-term care for veterans with mental health and substance abuse issues. Golden’s website also cited campaign finance reform, expanded healthcare, support for Maine’s seniors and supporting the nation’s workforce.