Letter to Editor: Committed to public service

To the Editor:

On Nov. 6 voters in the 2nd Congressional District will elect a congressman to a new two-year term.

Currently the office is held by Bruce Poliquin. Since he arrived in Washington four years ago, Poliquin has repeatedly voted against the best interests of voters in the 2nd District, particularly on issues related to health care. Now, though, he wants us to believe otherwise.

Running to replace Poliquin is Jared Golden, a 36-year-old native of Leeds. Golden, a Marine combat veteran, enlisted after the 9/11 attacks and went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following his return from the war, he enrolled in Bates College in Lewiston, using the GI Bill, and after graduation he worked in Washington on the staff of Susan Collins’ Homeland Security Committee.

As his military record makes clear, Jared is firmly committed to the ideal of public service. Before the current race he twice won election to the Maine legislature as a Democrat, representing a district that includes parts of Lewiston. As a legislator he gained a reputation as a person who listens, says what he thinks, and reaches across the aisle to get things done.

Two years into his service he was elected by his Democratic peers to serve as Assistant House Majority Leader. Today one of his biggest supporters in the congressional race is Tom Saviello, a Republican state senator from Wilton. And even as he took progressive positions on issues before the legislature, Jared also worked with Paul LePage on nonpartisan matters of public interest — for example, to enact a bill that allows veterans with relevant military healthcare experience to take state licensing exams without having to repeat their training.

Jared opposes Republican efforts to privatize Social Security, just as he opposes GOP proposals to reduce Medicare benefits. And as a legislator he has fought to expand MaineCare coverage for 70,000 “near poor” Mainers — something that 2nd District voters approved in a referendum two years ago. Furthermore, Jared believes that basic fairness requires health insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.

Poliquin, with the election looming, now claims he supports insurance protections for pre-existing medical conditions — but he voted for the Republican bill that would allow insurers to charge significantly more to those who suffer from a range of conditions, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.

Jared believes that climate change is real and largely man-made. And he believes that U.S. energy policy should acknowledge that and work toward a reduced-carbon energy mix. Poliquin, by contrast, has a lifetime legislative score of only 17 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, who have tracked his votes on a range of issues — including votes against recognizing the costs of climate change, for example, and against methane pollution standards. It’s a long list of anti-environmental votes, and it makes for sorry reading if you have children or grandchildren who will inherit the planet we leave behind.

Unlike his rival, Jared has taken no corporate PAC money. Tellingly, small individual contributors (defined as those contributing less than $200) make up only 1 percent of Bruce Poliquin’s fundraising total. “Large individual” contributions, on the other hand, have accounted for 43 percent of Poliquin’s fundraising success, and PAC contributions added in another 54 percent. Corporate contributors disclosed by Poliquin include the multinational bank Citigroup, Brown Brothers Harriman (a wealth advisory firm), and Ernst & Young (a major accounting and consulting firm headquartered in London). Poliquin himself was formerly employed in the wealth management industry. Perhaps this explains his vote in favor of the recent tax bill that lavished large, permanent tax cuts on American corporations, contributing to a major jump in America’s long-term deficit and increased borrowing costs for the federal government.

Nor can we overlook Poliquin’s famous reticence when it comes to taking questions. Once, during a nursing home visit, a constituent asked him a question he preferred not to answer. Rather than offer the courtesy of a reply, he hurried out a side door (yeah, there’s video).

Perhaps even better known is the “earbud” episode. Approached by a reporter in Washington, Poliquin panicked and ducked into the nearest bathroom (it was a women’s bathroom, but never mind). When he emerged a minute later he had his earbuds firmly planted in his ears, indicating that (“Sorry!”) he really couldn’t take any questions. He beat a hasty retreat from that scene, too.

And the reporter’s question he was dodging? It was this: Did he support repeal of the Affordable Care Act? Answer: well, yes, he did — as his voting record shows. But he wouldn’t own up to it when he thought he could duck into a bathroom instead. Our feeling is that anyone prepared to take healthcare coverage from thousands of Mainers ought to be willing to say so.

The only sure way to reject Poliquin’s unprincipled, truth-optional approach is for each of us to show up on Nov. 6 and vote. This race will be very close, and every vote will matter. If you’re not already a registered voter, you can register to vote any weekday at your town office, even on Election Day itself. Moreover, Maine law allows you to vote between now and Nov. 2 at your town office. Voting at the polls will be on Tuesday Nov. 6 from 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m.

Do yourself and all of us a favor and vote for Jared Golden. Together we can begin to restore a government that is truly by and for the people — and not just for the privileged few.

Gail Marshall

Mount Desert, and

John March

Mount Desert

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