Former US Rep. Bruce Poliquin is running, only this time it’s not into a bathroom to hide from reporters.
Shy as a congressman, comfortable walking away from a reporter while refusing to answer a question or locking the doors to his offices in the state so he wouldn’t have to face constituents, Poliquin has now found the courage to venture back in public since his defeat by US Rep. Jared Golden in 2018.
When Poliquin took a pass on a rematch with Golden, he said he was stepping back to attend to family matters, and that’s certainly a worthwhile reason.
It’s just by his actions – his high-profile war against the voter-approved, voter-endorsed and voter-loved ranked-choice voting, his radio appearances, his OpEd writing – Poliquin is telegraphing what he’s up to. (Disclosure: I’ve worked on efforts to pass and expand ranked-choice voting in Maine, which Poliquin blames for his loss).
I believe that Poliquin is setting himself up to run for governor in 2022, when Democrat Janet Mills will face re-election, if she seeks a second term. (Second guess is that he’s hoping that US Sen. Susan Collins decides that she wants to retire, like US Sen. Olympia Snowe did in February 2012, and he wants to be at the head of the pack for a mad scramble for the nomination.)
And he’s doing it with the same message of hate and division that President Donald Trump has bull-horned to the world from the very first day of his run for office, even though Poliquin at the time refused to support then-candidate Trump.
Last week, Poliquin published an OpEd in the Bangor Daily News that was meant to pit new arrivals to Maine against other people in the state.
“It’s not fair to push Mainers further down waitlists in favor of non-citizens who entered the country illegally.”
There are unmet needs in Maine and Republicans such as Poliquin have fought tooth and nail against ideas – like expanded access to health care through Medicaid – that would help to meet those needs and make lives better. He has supported changes to the food stamp program that would take food off the tables of struggling families. He voted to take health care away from thousands of Mainers.
He would divide our state into warring camps of us vs. them. We have to reject that.
Refugees and asylum seekers are not “illegal.” Instead, they are people who are fleeing violence and death to give their families a better opportunity at life.
They come to the United States, and to Maine, because we remain even today President Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”
In his farewell speech to the nation in 1989, Reagan said:
“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
Reagan continued: “And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”
In her inauguration speech, Gov. Janet Mills rose to similar rhetorical heights, talking about our state – that state she clearly loves – and the power that comes from coming home.
“We welcome the voices of the newcomers to the public conversation – the young, immigrants, people of different cultures, people of color, people of different orientations. All are important members of the Maine family. … Maine people have greatness within them. Maine is our home. … We are connected by love. We are strengthened by our connections. We are one Maine, undivided, one family … To all of you, and to the people of Maine, I say, Welcome Home.”
Given the choice between “us vs. them,” and “welcome home,” I’ll side with Mills and with those Pilgrims who are hurtling through darkness toward home.