LEWISTON — One day after his campaign said congressional hopeful Jared Golden would steer clear of a final campaign debate, the Lewiston Democrat said Friday that he’ll take part after all in Maine Public’s Oct. 28 2nd District debate even if the Republican incumbent opts to sit it out.
“It’s not too late” for two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin to reverse his decision to skip the Bangor event, Golden said.
Golden’s campaign issued a statement Thursday that said Poliquin had withdrawn from the Maine Public debate. That assertion simply wasn’t true.
Poliquin said in August he would participate in only two televised debates during the campaign. He declined to take part in Maine Public’s debate before a live audience at Gracie Theater.
Golden said that until Oct. 1, he thought Poliquin was going to appear on stage with the other three candidates vying to unseat him — an assertion bolstered by emails provided by Golden’s campaign staff.
In response, Golden’s campaign declared Thursday the Democrat wouldn’t go either, a decision the candidate reversed once he got caught up in the controversy.
It appears there was some miscommunication between Maine Public and Golden’s campaign. Reporters, Poliquin and both independent challengers — Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar — knew the Republican didn’t intend to be there.
Bond said on Twitter after Golden’s campaign criticized Poliquin that “errors and miscommunications happen, but in my opinion there is a duty to correct misinformation when you represent people or aspire to, even if it is trivial.”
“I don’t know why Golden’s campaign made this choice, or why it then yielded pulling from an event that never was presented as anything other than what it is,” Bond said.
Maine Republicans had harsher words for Golden.
They blasted Golden and the Maine Democrats for sending out news releases “they knew were lies” about Poliquin’s decision not to participate in the debate.
Poliquin’s campaign called Golden’s assertions “demonstrably false. They knew it was false, but they pushed the lie regardless.”
The problem with that, however, is that it appears the Democrat didn’t realize Poliquin never intended to take part in the debate.
Golden said that Maine Public “caused a real stir” by not making it clear.
Maine Public’s news and public affairs director, Mark Simpson, said Thursday that both Golden and Poliquin “had never actually said yes to us” about the Bangor debate.
Bond said, though, she had been told Poliquin likely wouldn’t participate.
Golden said it was clear the GOP is trying to create a diversionary issue so people will pay less attention to more important issues facing the district.
In any case, Golden said, the incumbent congressman isn’t doing anything more important that would justify his failure to attend.
“I would challenge Bruce to show up,” Golden said.
He said the debate offers a chance for Mainers to ask questions that all four candidates ought to be present to answer.
If Poliquin isn’t there, he said, he’ll appear with Bond and Hoar because he’s sure they can have a good discussion about the issues they all agree are facing the district, from the opioid crisis to health care in general.
Jared Golden and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin