AUGUSTA — U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s campaign said Tuesday that the Republican from Maine’s 2nd District will debate just twice on TV ahead of a November rematch with Democrat Emily Cain, who said he was evading questions about his record.

Poliquin and Cain debated four times during their open 2014 race. This year, the Republican spurned three other TV networks that planned to hold debates — including the Maine Public Broadcasting Network — in the nationally targeted campaign.

The race two years ago was the most expensive House race in Maine history, but this year’s campaign will smash that, with Poliquin and Cain raising $4.3 million as of June’s end and outside groups already spending more than $2 million.

On Tuesday, the Republican’s campaign said Poliquin would attend debates hosted on Oct. 19 by WAGM, a Presque Isle CBS affiliate, and on Oct. 26 on WCSH and WLBZ, the NBC affiliates in Portland and Bangor.

That left out three other debates already confirmed by Cain. Those were on Oct. 17 on MPBN, Oct. 24 on WVII, Bangor’s ABC affiliate, and Nov. 4 on WMTW and WABI, Portland’s ABC affiliate and Bangor’s CBS affiliate, respectively.

Those networks got Tuesday emails from the Republican’s campaign saying they are “respectfully declining” the invitation. Poliquin also rejected an invitation for an Oct. 12 call-in show on WERU, a community radio station in Blue Hill.

In a statement, Poliquin said the debates that he agreed to will provide access to everyone in the district and said he’s “looking forward to … setting the record straight” on his record.

Poliquin’s spokesman, Michael Byerly, noted that the final debate will be the sixth time the candidates have debated in two years.

Cain blasted Poliquin in a statement, saying he “has a long record of not being straight with the people of Maine.” She has hammered him for not saying if he’ll support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and ties to the financial industry, which has given him more than $750,000 in this race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s not the first time that Cain and Poliquin have sparred over debates.

In 2014, Poliquin voiced reluctance to debate with independent conservative Blaine Richardson, while Cain said that she wouldn’t attend debates without Richardson there. Cain’s play sunk WMTW’s 2014 debate, but Poliquin ended up agreeing to debates featuring Richardson.

Mal Leary, an MPBN political correspondent, called Poliquin’s decision not to accept the network’s invitation “a first” for MPBN’s congressional debates, saying its reach on TV and radio provides the only way for many across the 2nd District to hear a debate.

“The reality is, over the air, we are the only signal that covers the entire state on TV and radio,” Leary said.


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