Poliquin’s ‘uncomfortable pause’ on Donald Trump

Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine Legislature’s calendar makes Friday look downright sleepy. But those are famous last words for a State House reporter.

There are just three work sessions set for the Health and Human Services Committee, but they’re on reasonably important bills, including dueling and controversial proposals from Gov. Paul LePage and Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, that would limit opioid prescriptions.

But today, we’ll begin with U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, ducking a reporter’s question on Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Trump’s rise has thrown the party into chaos. He warned Wednesday of riots if he’s denied the nomination without getting the required number of delegates. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that it’s likely the party’s convention will be contested for the first time since 1976.

Poliquin, a freshman who is one of Democrats’ top targets in 2016 and will run against 2014 opponent Emily Cain, hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate. In December, his political adviser said he likely wouldn’t and this month, he wouldn’t say who he caucused for.

On Thursday, POLITICO reported that party leaders are advising Republicans in tight races to ignore Trump and focus on their districts.

That reporter asked Poliquin if he’d appear with Trump in the 2nd District, but the congressman only said that was a “good question. Then, “an uncomfortable pause ensued as the question hung in the air and Poliquin waited for an elevator to the House floor.”

Poliquin is Maine’s top Republican not to endorse this year: Gov. Paul LePage is backing Trump and though Sen. Susan Collins is now neutral, she backed Jeb Bush before he dropped out in February.

But Collins is likely Maine’s most popular politician and LePage is in his final term. They’re in far easier positions to endorse than the somewhat-vulnerable Poliquin.

Before he won his seat, the 2nd District was held by Democrats for 20 years. Cain has argued that the presidential election will boost turnout and make 2016 a better year for her to win.

But Poliquin has played many of his cards right. That includes eye-popping fundraising: He hauled in $1.85 million to Cain’s $787,000 by December’s end.

It’s clear, however, that he doesn’t see any advantage in an endorsement. Awkward conversations with reporters are better than attack ads linking him to Trump, although if he’s the nominee, Democrats will make the link anyhow. — Michael Shepherd

Legislature enacts bill to provide loans to large businesses

The Maine Legislature enacted a bill on Thursday that would provide loans or bonds to companies that have projected costs of $50 million or expect to create more than 250 jobs at above-average wages.

It was sponsored by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, and it doesn’t require taxpayer money. Rather, it would operate as a sort of business mutual fund and wouldn’t take effect until $250 million is paid into it.

The bill, which now goes to LePage, got just one dissenting vote in the Senate — from Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, who wanted to strike language that future legislatures could contribute to the fund. He told the Sun Journal that it could set up a taxpayer-funded “corporate welfare” program in the future.

But Gerzofsky rejected that, noting recent announcements of hundreds of new jobs coming to Brunswick that will affect the entire region.

“When this bill becomes law, we can expect a lot more announcements like that,” he said in a statement. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Someone in Portland made a sweatshirt that reads “Forgive Your Enemas” and says “forgive whoever or whatever ruined your life.” I might be able to do that, but not for $29.
  • Read this ode to a woman who left an adult video store in Kittery open just a little bit longer for a man: He found her “immensely sexually attractive,” with a “welcoming yet soft and sultry very hospitable tone” and an “incredibly sexy and punky form-fitting dark black leather short trenchcoat-like jacket.” Here’s his soundtrack.
  • This rabbit in Newport is cute. He’s also mean. But he’s free. Maybe that will ease your pain once HE INEVITABLY BITES YOU.
  • A guy got “4 big macs and 3 fries and 3 shakes” at an Augusta McDonald’s. But his eye wasn’t on the food; it was on the lovely lady who gave it to him. “Your really pretty,” our Lothario writes. “I wanna get to know you.” Good luck, but you’re probably just another order on her screen, man. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.