BOSTON — Lawyers scoffed Wednesday at U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s emergency appeal to a federal court to block the certification of Maine’s 2nd District congressional race results and perhaps leave Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat empty until the case is resolved.

Calling Poliquin’s move “a Hail Mary pass,” lawyers for Democrat Jared Golden said the court should uphold a district judge’s opinion denying the two-term Republican’s claims.

Poliquin’s arguments to the appeals court “are a rehash of arguments roundly rejected” by District Court Judge Lance Walker in Bangor, the attorneys for Golden said. “There is no substantial question concerning the soundness of the district court’s conclusion.”

James Monteleone, the attorney for independent candidate Tiffany Bond, said in his brief to the court that Poliquin is asking the court to order that residents of the 2nd District “go unrepresented in the upcoming Congress pending a frivolous appeal.”

If Poliquin and his allies succeed in their quest to put the election on hold, Monteleone said, they “would severely harm the public interest to correct an emergency of their own making.”

In a brief filed by Lewiston attorney Peter Brann, Golden argued that Poliquin “has no reasonable chance — much less a strong likelihood — of succeeding on the merits of his claims, which rely on legal arguments that no court has ever accepted and which the trial court correctly and conclusively rebuffed.”

They asked appellate judges to deny the injunction request and to affirm Walker’s decision as sound.

Poliquin and three Maine voters asked the 1st District Court of Appeals to issue an injunction this week that would stop the state from naming Golden the winner of the ranked-choice voting contest.

The two-term Republican lost by more than 3,500 votes after first-round votes for independents Bond and Will Hoar were redistributed to those voters’ second and third choices.

Gov. Paul LePage hasn’t certified the results pending the outcome of Poliquin’s court case, but Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has. Golden’s lawyers said that’s all that’s needed.

LePage’s attorney, Patrick Strawbridge, told the appeals court that LePage doesn’t plan to certify the results while the case is pending. He said he doubts it will be over before LePage leaves office.

But, Strawbridge added, “it is the governor’s view that this process is repugnant to the governing legal principles that each person’s vote be counted in every election, as well as the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.”

If it matters, the next governor, Janet Mills, will “gladly certify” Golden’s  election, “just as she would for any duly elected official,” said Scott Ogden, her communications chief. She takes office one day before Golden is scheduled to take his seat in Washington.

It is not clear whether the U.S. House requires the governor’s approval of the results to move forward with seating Golden on Jan. 3 when the new session of Congress gets underway.

Poliquin’s case is built on the assertion that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional, an assertion that Walker shot down last week in a decision that took issue with every point raised by Poliquin’s attorneys.

Poliquin’s attorneys argued the Republican would suffer permanent harm if the court fails to block certification of the vote count and clears the way for Golden to take office. They said an injunction would lock the status quo in place while lawyers wrangle about the merits of ranked-choice voting in the courtroom.

But Brann’s brief insists that Poliquin’s bid “is more than a day late, and a dollar short” because the certification is already done and the election over.

“At every step of this process,” Golden’s lawyers said, Poliquin has procrastinated.

“He chose not to act before the election; he did not file in the district court promptly after the election; and he did not file a notice of appeal until days after the district court entered judgment and Poliquin ended his doomed recount,” they said. “The timeline alone demonstrates that Poliquin is not entitled to emergency relief based on his lassitude.”

The U.S. House serves as its own “Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members,” according to a provision in the Constitution that appears to give it the authority to decide whether to seat Golden, regardless of what a court may say.

The Democrats take control of the House next month.

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Jared Golden and Bruce Poliquin


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