Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, recently visited a remote stretch of the wall erected along the border between Mexico and Texas. Submitted photo

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin should focus his attention on Maine instead of the Texas border, say the two candidates vying with him for the Republican Party’s backing in this year’s 2nd Congressional District race.

While Liz Caruso of Caratunk and Garret Swazey of Bangor said there is a problem along the Mexican border, they also questioned why Poliquin is so focused on it when there are so many pressing issues in the Pine Tree State.

Poliquin, who recently spent a couple of days in Texas eyeballing the border, called the issue “one of my top things” during a radio interview last week with Mike Violette, who hosts a radio show on WSKW in Skowhegan.

He insisted it is “not just a Texas issue” but one of the biggest problems facing America in the past three decades. “This is such a chaotic problem it affects all of us,” Poliquin said.

The trio of Republican hopefuls are heading for a June 14 primary that will decide which of them holds the GOP line on the November general election ballot against Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston, who defeated Poliquin four years ago to win the sprawling, Republican-leaning district. Among the three, Poliquin has a big fundraising lead and the backing of the party establishment in the nation’s capital.

Liz Caruso Submitted photo

Caruso said she agrees with Poliquin that “the situation at the Mexican border is unacceptable,” but insisted “the solution is simple: shut it down, reinforce our Border Patrol and build the wall.”

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“Mainers are tired of political grandstanding and false promises,” she added.

“While Bruce was in Texas,” she said, “I was driving across Maine, meeting with our citizens and focusing on the many complex issues Mainers are faced with today.”

Caruso said the district’s voters “deserve a representative who will be clear and authentic about where they stand and put the needs of Mainers first.”

Swazey said he heard Poliquin speak the other day at a gathering at Dysart’s restaurant and truck stop in Bangor and “was surprised Poliquin’s primary focus was the southern border.”

“He’s not wrong,” Swazey said. “We do have a border problem.”

“But it wasn’t at the top of my concerns that morning. That morning, like many Mainers, I was lying in bed listening to my furnace running constantly to keep up with the 30-mile-per-hour wind gusts and negative temps, trying to figure out what my fuel delivery that week would cost,” Swazey said.

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He said the district’s residents, “especially vulnerable to high fuel and electric prices because of our climate, geographical spread and the number of citizens on fixed incomes,” are worried about inflation, housing costs, vaccine mandates and paying their bills.

“We have day-to-day challenges we need to address immediately,” Swazey said, and they are a higher priority than longstanding border issues.

Garret Swazey Submitted photo

Even so, Swazey said, “I was actually planning on visiting and campaigning at the border myself — the 611-mile border between Maine and Canada, probably around Frenchville and St. Agatha for the Long Lake fishing derby.”

He said that while he’s there he would “check up on our truckers and make sure they are doing OK.”

Poliquin has been pushing border control issues for years. In his radio interview last week, he said any member of Congress who hasn’t visited the southern border is “unqualified to serve.”

Golden, who has not made the trek, took issue with him.

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“I can do my job,” he said, without taking time away from his district and his family to see for himself what he’s already heard a great deal about. He said he’s voted to fund the wall, beef up security and address the problems cited by Poliquin.

Golden said Poliquin “failed to do his job” during his four years in the House and has no grounds to complain about what his successor has done.

“He’s just trying to make a campaign issue out of it,” Golden said.

Golden said he has talked with border agents in Maine who have been to Texas and has heard from them about many issues. He said he has tried to address them and make sure the necessary government resources are available to get the job done.

Poliquin, who bought a house in Orrington in October, portrays the Texas border as something close to mayhem.

“It’s the wild West down here,” he told Violette. “This is really serious stuff. It’s scary stuff. And it’s getting worse.”

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Whether that’s true is a hotly debated topic.

President Joe Biden has not changed the broad border expulsion policy implemented by his predecessor when the COVID-19 pandemic began and, under court order, he is still forcing migrants to wait in Mexico as their asylum cases are dealt with.

In addition to the trio of Republican candidates and Golden, there are two independents eyeing the race, Tiffany Bond of Portland and Jordan Borrowman of Lewiston.

The general election is Nov. 8.


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