BANGOR, Maine — Bruce Poliquin, the Republican candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat, told a young professionals’ group Wednesday that, if elected, he would work to reduce government spending and to lower taxes, which he said will allow for more job creation.
“I believe we need to learn not to spend more than what we take in, start paying off our debt and lower taxes,” he told a group of about 15 people who attended the last of a series of lunches with candidates organized by networking group Bangor:Fusion.
“When you are able to lower taxes, it takes less money out of your pockets,” he said. “You can reinvest in your chiropractic practice, or you can spend that money on a new set of boots for your kid.”
Poliquin, who served as state treasurer in 2011 and 2012, is running against Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono. A recent poll commissioned by the Portland Press Herald indicated he may have as much as a 10-point lead over Cain.
At the event, held at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Poliquin tried to connect with each person in the room. He did not sit down to eat until everyone left, choosing instead to introduce himself to each attendee before he gave his speech.
He spoke from the floor instead of standing behind the podium provided for him, unlike his opponent and candidates for other offices invited to the lunch series had done in previous weeks.
“I thought, in terms of working the room and his energy level and his enthusiasm, he was the best of the candidates,” Jeff Solari, business development manager for Bangor law firm Rudman Winchell, said.
Poliquin cited his experience working in the financial services industry as a way to connect with the young professionals at the event.
“I was really interested in the job. That’s what I was looking for,” he said, explaining why he went to Chicago, then New York for his career.
After graduating from Harvard with a degree in economics, Poliquin worked at Avatar Associates, which managed the pension funds of companies such as Bath Iron Works, Kmart, Chrysler, Levi Strauss and U.S. Airways.
He said that when he and his peers entered the workforce, jobs were much easier to come by than they are today.
“When it comes to here in Maine, in particular the 2nd District … and in particular Bangor, I’m very concerned,” he said.
Besides working toward paying off the country’s debt, Poliquin said other solutions to the job problem are to decrease federal regulations on businesses and to lower energy costs.
He spoke about the large natural gas reserves in western New York, Ohio and West Virginia, saying the federal government ought to “remove regulatory burdens of that industry so we can increase production of that commodity.”
Carin Sychterz, program coordinator at the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, asked Poliquin to be more specific on that idea.
“If you’re elected, you’re going to be in a room with 435 other people. They all have their own interests, environmental concerns with fracking,” she said, referring to the method used to extract natural gas from beneath the earth’s surface. “What could you do?”
“Stand up, be heard, do my homework and never give up,” he said.
“If you’re a business person, you learn to negotiate, you learn to get the best deal you can. You solve the problem and go on to the next problem,” he continued.
“I wanted a specific answer,” Sychterz said after the event. “The challenge I have is, for 10 years I’ve listened to politicians say, ‘I’ll do what’s better.’”
Zach Means, vice president of Means Wealth Management, asked Poliquin about the future of the forest products industry, which took another hit last week when Verso announced it would close its paper mill in Bucksport by the end of the year.
“The easy thing now is to say we want to keep these mills open,” Means said. “Long term, the paper industry in Maine is going to have a difficult run. … Why don’t we use some of these funds to develop a different kind of workforce?” he asked, suggesting development in the health care industry, for example.
Poliquin responded that Maine is covered in forest and there are skilled workers here, assets that should not be ignored.
“I’m not giving up on them yet because we’re right in the bread basket,” Poliquin said, referring to the area’s abundant natural resources.
After the event, Means said, “I think politicians, a lot of times, make statements that are politically correct but don’t necessarily provide the long-term solutions that I would like to hear.”