Heading into the general election, Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has at least one big advantage over his Democratic challenger: money.
Poliquin, seeking a third term in Maine’s hardscrabble 2nd District, reported $2.7 million in cash-on-hand at the end of June, compared to $357,000 for Jared Golden, who won a three-way Democratic primary last month for the right to serve as his party’s standard bearer.
Golden’s campaign, however, is likely to attract more money and attention as the race heats up now that its outcome has been rated a tossup by Cook’s Political Report, one of the key measures that fundraisers eye to figure where to put money targeted at U.S. House races.
Other observers, though, say Poliquin has the edge.
Almost all the money raised by Golden has come from individuals — more than 90 percent of it — while more than half the $3.2 million raised by Poliquin came from political action committees.
So far in the campaign, Poliquin has spent $527,000, while Golden has shelled out $823,000, most of it to fend off challengers in the primary who collectively forked over another $1 million to fund their unsuccessful bids.
Golden, who pointed out that his average donation is about $100, called fundraising “an important difference” between the candidates.
“If voters want Congress to fix our broken health care system and our dysfunctional government, then we need to elect candidates like myself who are committed to getting big money out of politics,” Golden said Monday. “Elections shouldn’t be about who can raise the most money from special interests.”
Golden said over the past three months, “most of Bruce’s campaign cash came from corporate PACs.”
He said, “Golden’s only long-term career choice has been politics and he appears to be running for Congress simply to get a job,” a far different path than Poliquin took in pursuing “a successful career outside politics” in finance before he sought office.
Littlefield also said Golden “has taken thousands of dollars from Wall Street-connected corporations and now claims he is against big money in politics. It is the height of hypocrisy.”
Both campaigns recognize that millions of additional dollars are likely to be spent by Super PACs and other outside groups trying to swing control of the House from the Republicans to the Democrats. Analysts are predicting enough Democratic wins in the November general election to give the party a shot at seizing a majority for the first time since 2010.
Big swaths of television time in Maine have already been reserved by key Super PACs connected to each of the parties.
A peculiarity of federal law, though, makes it possible for candidates to purchase television airtime at much cheaper rates — stations have to offer slots at the cheapest rate they charge anyone — so having big coffers is particularly valuable for those on the ballot. Their campaign cash goes further than the money PACs shell out.
Democrats see Poliquin as especially vulnerable this year because of his support for abolishing the Affordable Care Act last year and his vote for a controversial $1.5 trillion tax cut in December.
But the GOP argues that Poliquin has delivered for Maine on many issues that hit close to home in his blue collar, rural district — the only one in New England to vote for President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Golden, a state representative from Lewiston who serves as the assistant majority leader in the Legislature in Augusta, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who logged combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two independents in the race, Tiffany Bond of Portland and Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor, have not reported raising or spending any money. Bond has urged supporters to give their money to Maine charities or to buy items from Maine businesses.
“Who needs money for ads when we can have a better economy,” Bond wrote Monday on Twitter.
They are counting on ranked-choice voting to break the typical two-party dynamics of the congressional race.
Poliquin has overcome doubters in past races. Two years ago, in a rematch against Democrat Emily Cain, political ratings outfits considered the contest a tossup, spurring millions in television ads for and against him. But when the votes were counted, Poliquin won by a wide margin.
The candidates filed their required June 30 quarterly financial reports with the Federal Election Commission over the weekend.
The election is Nov. 6. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives serve two-year terms and, like U.S. senators, are paid $174,000 a year.
Democrat Jared Golden, left, hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, in the Nov. 6 general election. (Contributed photos)