- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin again refused Wednesday to say whether he was supporting GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, prompting his Democratic rival, Emily Cain, to accuse him of being “evasive.”

Poliquin was asked about Trump during his final debate with Cain in the 2nd Congressional District contest a day after Donald Trump Jr. said Republican officeholders who decline to endorse his father are “just protecting themselves and the little environment they’ve created.”

Poliquin told WCSH-TV moderator Pat Callaghan “nice try” and insisted he won’t be drawn into the heated presidential race, which has featured incendiary criticisms from Trump about women, Hispanics and others.

“The people of Maine didn’t elect me to get involved in this media circus around this election,” he said. “I’m not getting involved in this campaign.”

Cain pounced on Poliquin’s answer, calling him “evasive” on Trump and accusing him of doing a “duck and dive” on a question about medical marijuana. “You have a congressman who won’t answer questions, who’s not straight with you,” she said. “With me, you get someone who’s direct with you every time.”

The race in the sprawling 2nd District, a rematch from two years ago, is one of the nation’s most-watched congressional races and has attracted millions of dollars in spending on attack ads.

The debate, which was scheduled to be aired Wednesday evening on WLBZ-TV in Bangor and WCSH-TV in Portland, touched on many issues: the Affordable Care Act, tax policy, border security and immigration.

Poliquin accused Cain of being a “big-spend, big-tax, big-debt liberal.” Cain portrayed Poliquin as a multi-millionaire puppet of Wall Street donors who’s out of touch with regular Mainers.

Poliquin said Cain’s support of raising taxes on carbon-based energy products would stifle the economy but she said it was all about taxing “out-of-state polluters” responsible for raising the ocean temperature and causing lobster to migrate northward.

She also attacked Poliquin’s claim that he wanted to close tax loopholes, saying he “abused tax loopholes in Maine to avoid paying thousands of dollars in taxes.”

Poliquin touted his bipartisan efforts to preserve New Balance footwear jobs by pressing the Pentagon to make recruits wear U.S.-made shoes, preserving jobs at Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works, and pushing back against the European Union over a proposal to ban Maine lobsters.

Both Cain and Poliquin said they worked their way through college, but both differed on whether college tuition should be free.

Cain said that Mainers who make good grades and follow the rules should be able to graduate “debt-free.” Poliquin supported boosting existing grant programs. “Whenever anybody that makes a career in politics says that something is free, they’re not telling the truth,” he said.

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