Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican who represented Maine's 2nd District and is running a return bid in 2022, speaks at a news conference in Augusta on Nov. 13, 2018. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine – Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin declined to say on Wednesday whether he thought President Joe Biden was legitimately elected in 2020 and that he would not have backed impeaching former President Donald Trump after the Capitol riots.

Poliquin spoke to reporters in Augusta on Wednesday ahead of turning in his signatures to qualify for the ballot for a likely rematch with Rep. Jared Golden, the vulnerable Democrat who defeated him narrowly in 2018. The Republican addressed a range of issues, including inflation, high gas prices and the flow of fentanyl across the U.S.-Mexico border.

His comments highlight the former president’s lingering influence as Poliquin, who mostly declined to discuss Trump after he became the Republican nominee in 2016, showed reluctance to criticize him over false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Asked whether Biden was legitimately elected in 2020, the former Republican congressman noted that Trump twice won the 2nd District. In response to a follow-up question about Biden’s victory, Poliquin did not answer the question directly but turned to the issue of voter integrity.

“It is critically important to make sure that it’s really easy to vote, but it’s really hard to cheat,” he said.

Want the latest political news? Subscribers of Pocket Politics get breaking news and analysis on their phones before the stories go anywhere else. Text POLITICS to 207-288-7412 to get in. First two weeks are free, $3.99/month after that. Cancel any time. All links to the site are free.

Poliquin criticized Golden’s votes to impeach Trump. The former president was impeached twice, first in 2019 after being accused of withholding military aid to Ukraine and in 2021 after the riots at the U.S. Capitol. Golden broke from his party to back only one of two impeachment articles the first time, while the second impeachment was unanimous among Democrats with 10 House Republicans also joining.

“I disagree with anybody impeaching somebody who’s supported by the people of the 2nd District,” Poliquin said.

Poliquin said did not support Trump’s “very colorful way of communicating” but cited the former president’s business acumen, trade deals and efforts to crack down on the border with Mexico.

The former congressman declined to say whether he supported Trump when the former president first ran in 2016 and did not address how he had voted in the presidential election during his 2018 campaign, although Trump endorsed him. But Poliquin backed Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign, touting his economic record.