SOUTH PARIS — All three of the Democrats seeking to snatch Maine’s 2nd District U.S. House seat this year from a Republican incumbent said Monday they do not want to see their party’s longtime House leader regain the speaker’s office if the GOP loses its majority.
Environmentalist Lucas St. Clair said that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been the minority leader since Republicans won a majority in 2010, “doesn’t matter to me. She’s not going to make people’s lives better” in northern Maine.
“It’s time to see some new leadership,” said Craig Olson, a bookstore owner who is also running in Tuesday’s primary for the opportunity to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who is among the GOP lawmakers targeted by Democrats hungry to retake the House.
The other Democratic contender, state Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston told a forum that he “has no intention of voting for Nancy Pelosi. None at all.”
Republicans across the country are trying to make the case that Pelosi, a controversial California politician, will become speaker if the Democrats snatch control of the House. They also argue that President Donald Trump will likely face an impeachment vote if the GOP loses control.
The three Democrats vying for Poliquin’s seat told about 40 people at a forum sponsored by the Oxford County Democrats Monday that they’re skeptical about the idea of trying to impeach Trump.
“It’s kind of a dog whistle. We get distracted by it,” St. Clair said, adding that it would only foster more division in a country already too split.
Golden said if the president broke laws, he should be held accountable. But, he said, he is “not going to play games” and won’t vote for impeachment unless it is justified. He pointed out that when some Democrats sought to impeach Gov. Paul LePage, he voted against it because he considered it “pure politics.”
Golden said he’s not going to let questions like the future status of Pelosi distract him.
“This is going to be about me and Bruce,” he said.
Poliquin said in April that “multiple news reports indicate that Nancy Pelosi’s out-of-state political machine is attempting to take this seat so she can take control of the U.S. House” while insisting he will stay focused on his district despite the politics swirling around him.
Democrats said they want to see a new generation of leaders in Washington.
“I personally would love to see a change,” St. Clair said, adding it is time for a generational shift in Congress.
“We need to have younger people playing these roles,” he said.
Golden said it’s time for leaders such as Pelosi and Republican Speaker Paul Ryan to move on and hand over the reins to newcomers.
The three candidates generally agreed on nearly every issue raised during the forum.
Don Berry, the Oxford County Democratic chair, said the candidates “are really pulling for each other.”
He said they all realize it’s time “to straighten out what we’re seeing right now” and that Democrats are eager to head to the polls.
“I really think that Bruce Poliquin is going to have a hard time keeping his job,” Berry said.
There was only a glancing reference to the one controversy that has stirred up Democrats on the campaign trail, when Golden said candidates “need to walk the walk” on campaign finance, a veiled reference to his criticism of spending by a nonprofit to tout St. Clair’s work on the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument that President Barack Obama created in 2016.
Hoping to douse one other source of concern about his campaign, St. Clair explained before the forum why he donated $500 several years ago to one of the most conservative Republican members of the U.S. House.
St. Clair said he gave U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah the campaign cash so he could attend a fundraising luncheon where he figured he would get a chance to speak with the congressman about the national monument in Maine.
“He’s a terrible person,” St. Clair said, but attending the event was his only avenue to speak to Bishop since he would not agree to a meeting. He said it was important “to corner him” somewhere and tell him why he ought to support the Katahdin Woods bill.
St. Clair said he convinced Bishop to go along with the compromise measure for the proposed preserve, but Poliquin came along and stymied it anyway.
The Democratic hopeful said the campaign finance system is awful and needs to be revamped. But he had to use it to his advantage to try to advance the cause he was pressing in Congress.
St. Clair has also donated to both of Maine’s U.S. senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, and to Emily Cain, the Democrat who lost to Poliquin in the past two elections.
All three of the Democrats in Tuesday’s primary called for an overhaul of the campaign finance system to require more disclosure about where the money for campaigns is coming from.
Golden said that for him, it has become increasingly clear “it’s a system that is pay to play and it is rigging our politics” and undermining the ability of Congress to make necessary progress on many issues.