Debate or not to debate. That seems to be the question this when it comes to the candidates vying for Maine governor and 2nd Congressional District.
Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud’s campaign says he won’t attend a debate that doesn’t include all three candidates. Incumbent Republican Governor Paul LePage and Independent candidate Eliot Cutler. Cutler has been challenging his opponents to take part in one debate per week until election day.
Democrats have sought to marginalize independent Eliot Cutler, a former Democrat, and push the narrative that Michaud is in a two-way race.
Meanwhile, in the 2nd District, Republican Bruce Poliquin’s campaign wants to set criteria that could prevent former Republican Blaine Richardson, an independent, from participating in debates. In a press release form his campaign, Poliquin claims his intentions have been improperly characterized by the media.
“Last night an inaccurate report aired suggesting the Poliquin had declined participation in a debate. That is not correct. The Poliquin campaign has been in discussions with a number of organizations regarding debates and continues to have those discussions. I personally handled the discussions with MPBN which were done entirely on email.
At no time did I state the campaign would not participate in this debate – or any debate. I did open a discussion of criteria for inclusion. Reports to the contrary are not accurate,” the statement read.
In an odd pairing, Richardson and Democratic hopeful Emily Cain teamed up at a State House press conference to lambaste Poliquin for trying to keep Richardson out of any potential debates. The prevailing message is that Richardson, who polled at 0% in the latest poll published by the Portland Press Herald, could siphon votes away from Poliquin if his campaign picks up any steam at all. Cain, who stands to benefit if that happens, said Thursday that it’s a disservice to Maine voters if they can’t hear from all three candidates.
“Quite frankly, by refusing to debate with all of the candidates on the ballot, Bruce Poliquin is denying Maine voters their seat at the table. And I believe it’s an indication of how he would act in Congress if he didn’t get his way he’d simply want to change the rules,” Cain told reporters Thursday.
Richardson, who’s running as an Independent, agreed and says voters deserve to at least hear him out before deciding how they’ll vote.
“It’s really important that the Maine voters get to hear all the ideas and solutions, potential solutions for the problems we face now as a nation. And trust me, we have a lot,” Richardson said.
But Republican leaders argue that Richardson is not a legitimate candidate since he’s polling at zero and has failed to raise any money for his fledgling campaign.
“There’s a question about legitimacy and Blaine is at zero percent in the polls and he’s raised no money and we really believe this needs to be a battle of ideas between what we believe and what Bruce Poliquin believes and a liberal politician like Emily Cain,” said Jason Savage, Executive Director of the Maine Republican Party.
The Poliquin campaign seems to be backtracking a bit on their previous stance. In their statement to the media the campaign said:
“Bruce Poliquin looks forward to comparing his 35 year career of creating jobs against any candidate.”
(**The Associated Press Contributed To This Report**)