Several Democrats hoping to win Maine’s 2nd District seat this year in the U.S. House of Representatives were less than impressed with the three-day federal government shutdown resolved Monday.

“Congress needs to stop playing politics with our government,” said Bar Harbor cafe owner Tim Rich, a Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District  Republican. “This has gotten dangerous and it threatens our financial security and our standing in the world.”

Democratic hopefuls criticized Republicans who control both the House and Senate for failing to approve a budget and forcing a shutdown through their refusal to deal with a crucial immigration issue.

Poliquin, however, said the shutdown is the fault of both parties. He called it an unacceptable “failure in leadership,” especially in the Senate.

Isleboro bookstore owner Craig Olson, a Democrat vying for the 2nd District seat, said Monday that as a member of Congress, he would “do everything in my power to work across the aisle on a daily basis so that more legislation is bipartisan and acceptable to both sides for the benefit of everyone.”

Olson said the federal budget should not be funded through stopgap measures.

Democrat Jonathan Fulford, a Monroe builder, said Monday: “Short-term budgeting avoids responsibility for the country’s future. To be successful building anything requires a blueprint. It is time for us to invest in this country’s future with long-term commitments.

“We must be strategic in our use of our resources, for example, investing in energy independence through renewables and energy efficient homes and buildings that will create good-paying jobs in Maine and across the nation.”

The shutdown drew to a close after U.S. Senate leaders agreed to allow a vote soon on a proposal to provide legal status to immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Maine’s two Republican lawmakers – U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Poliquin – voted last week to keep the government’s doors open while U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, held out for a measure that would address issues the GOP has put off.

Lucas St. Clair, an environmentalist who hopes to win a June primary and the right to challenge Poliquin in November, blamed the shutdown on Republicans. He initially called the GOP’s move insane.

“Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House,” St. Clair said Monday, “and they can’t do the most fundamental work of keeping the lights on.”

St. Clair later called the shutdown “a failure of leadership and a failure of imagination.” 

“Governing means making hard choices, negotiating in good faith and putting an end to political brinkmanship,” he said. “That’s not happening.”
 
Instead of bringing appropriation bills to the floor, St. Clair said, “it’s stall, bluster and fumble on.”

“We need to stop treating our commitment to pay our debts and to fund our government as if they are partisan political tools,” Rich said Monday.

Rich said that “manufactured crises like this hurt regular people throughout Maine and our country.”

The funding package approved Monday pays for the children’s health care program for six years. It also promises at least a Senate vote on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Mark Holbrook, the Republican who hopes to unseat Pingree, said in a comment on Twitter that the shutdown ended because Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York blinked.

“We will be here again no doubt,” Holbrook said. “But his illegal immigrants over American citizens balloon has lost its hot air.”

Poliquin, who represents the 2nd District, said he would not take a paycheck as long as the shutdown continued. He planned to donate the money to a Maine food bank.

St. Clair, one of five Democrats vying for his party’s support, said it was appropriate for Poliquin to decline a paycheck during the shutdown.

“He isn’t doing his job,” St. Clair said. “But it’s just symbolic. The congressman is independently wealthy, unlike most of the people who are hurting because of this congressional failure.”

“The congressman would be better off spending more time listening to people in his district and less time trying to score cheap political points,” St. Clair said.

Olson said he is “not impressed with Mr. Poliquin’s refusal of his salary,” calling for him instead of “give up his access to health care during the duration of the shutdown.”

Poliquin, though, does not use his congressional health-care benefits. He pays for coverage privately.

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Democratic congressional candidate Craig Olson (Photo provided)

Democratic congressional candidate Tim Rich (Photo provided)

Democratic congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair (Photo provided)