Bruce Poliquin in 2017, left, and Jared Golden in 2018, right. Poliquin, a former Republican U.S. representative for Maine’s 2nd District, announced Wednesday that he’s going to try to win back his old seat from Democratic Rep. Jared Golden. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press file

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin insists that he was the real winner of the 2018 race that he lost to Democratic challenger Jared Golden.

Poliquin hopes to become the Republican nominee next year to take on Golden in Maine’s GOP-friendly 2nd District. There are at least two other contenders who may force a primary next June.

Poliquin, though, doesn’t accept that he ever lost the seat to begin with.

“I won this seat three times — 2014, 2016, 2018 — but was only seated twice because of ranked vote,” he said in a radio interview Thursday.

In the interview with WVOM-FM in Bangor, Poliquin said this time around, his campaign is ready to deal with ranked-choice voting.

“We’re going into this with our eyes wide open,” Poliquin said, adding that “we have a plan to deal with that.”

Poliquin, 67, also expressed hope that Democrats “won’t try to game the system again” this year.

There is no evidence, though, that anybody gamed the system in 2018, when Poliquin lost by 3,509 votes to Golden, 38, a former state representative from Lewiston.

“I was not in cahoots with the Democratic Party,” said third-place finisher Tiffany Bond, an independent. “In fact, they were very upset I even existed.”

Bond, who left the door open for another possible run next year, said Friday that Poliquin lost in 2018 because he “is a crummy legislator that does not belong in office.” That’s why she told her supporters to pick Golden second, she said.

But after seeing Golden’s performance during his two terms in Washington, she said she doesn’t think he belongs on Capitol Hill either.

Back in 2018, during the first federal race ever decided by ranked-choice voting, there were four candidates: Poliquin, Golden and independents Bond, an attorney from Portland, and Will Hoar, an educator on Mount Desert Island.

Workers count ballots during the ranked-choice voting tabulation by the secretary of state’s office in Augusta in November 2018. Steve Collins/Sun Journal file

Between them, Bond and Hoar took more than 8% of the vote during the first ballot count while Poliquin snagged a small initial lead over Golden.

But when the secretary finished counting every ballot, distributing the votes of Hoar and Bond backers to their second-choice candidate, Golden emerged as the clear winner of a close race.

There was never a time when Poliquin was ahead because all the ballots were in-hand the entire time and all the votes had already been cast. It took nine days to count them all because they had to be taken to Augusta and fed through a high-speed tabulator, all of it done in full view of observers from every campaign and lots of reporters.

After losing the count, Poliquin claimed he had won and challenged the constitutionality of the ranked-choice voting system.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker

His lawyers argued before federal District Court Judge Lance Walker in Bangor, appointed by President Donald Trump, that the new system violated the law and ought to be rejected.

Golden, Bond and the state defended the system that Maine’s electorate approved during a 2016 referendum.

In a 30-page opinion, Walker gutted Poliquin’s legal position and ruled that Maine had the right to adopt the ranked-choice voting system. Poliquin ultimately abandoned any effort to appeal the decision.

But in the years since, he has maintained a drumbeat of opposition to what he calls “ranked voting.”

It’s possible, some ranked-choice proponents have said, that if Poliquin had tried to use ranked-choice voting to his advantage in 2018 instead of incessantly castigating it as confusing and unfair, he might have been able to come out on top instead of losing the race.

In his radio interview, though, Poliquin did note that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, was able last year to run successfully for reelection in a ranked-choice voting race.

What will happen in the 2nd District race next year is impossible to say at this point, but the possibility exists that it won’t be a straight-up contest between Golden and a Republican challenger. And that could mean another round of waiting for ranked-choice voting results in November 2022.


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