Bruce Poliquin runs on border politics but has few political differences with Jared Golden

No congressional district in the lower 48 states is farther from the southern border than Maine’s 2nd District.

But former U.S. Representative Bruce Poliquin, a Republican aiming for a 2022 rematch with Democratic Representative Jared Golden, was in Texas earlier this month to highlight what he described as a “chaotic” border situation that could have significance in this year’s midterm elections.

The attention at the border is constant for Poliquin, who has been a warmonger on immigration during his four years in the House. His recent push mirrors Republican attempts to run on the issue in 2022, even though Golden — a prime target for Republicans in a district won twice by Trump — has generally voted with them on border measures in his two warrants.

Poliquin was one of many candidates to visit the border on a trip led by Rep. Anthony Gonzales, R-Texas, who is helping lead Republican efforts to retake the House. The group met with Border Patrol agents, held a press conference and circulated photos of members at the border wall. Poliquin and Gonzales too spoke with a Maine talk radio station.

In an interview with the Bangor Daily News from the El Paso airport, Poliquin blamed Democrats for the border situation, noting a significant increase in the number of migrants aiming to enter the United States in 2021 as well as more seizures of dangerous drugs such as fentanyl. .

“The reason these numbers are higher than they have been in two decades is that the current administration and the majority party have effectively opened the border,” Poliquin said.

Most of the migrants involved in the record 1.6 million encounters with the US Border Patrol in fiscal year 2021 were deported from the country. President Joe Biden’s administration has angered progressives by retaining a pandemic-related Trump order deporting migrants on public health grounds, making exceptions for unaccompanied children and some families.

The Democratic president tried to repeal a Trump program requiring most asylum seekers to stay in Mexico pending hearings in the United States, but the attempt was blocked in federal court.

Describing the challenges facing overworked Border Patrol agents, Poliquin spoke of a range of solutions he would pursue if elected, including increased funding, more judges to fast-track asylum applications, money for a border wall, better technology and more investment in Central American countries. to tackle the root causes of migration.

He declined to identify specific disagreements with Golden, saying instead they were about different priorities between the parties.

“There hasn’t been any legislation that I can see that the Biden administration and the majority party — the Democrats — in Congress have proposed to address this issue,” Poliquin said.

Golden’s office noted that the congressman has repeatedly voted in favor of funding border security, including physical barriers, since taking office in 2019. The Lewiston Democrat has also stood up to his party to oppose so-called “sanctuary cities” where local law enforcement is restricted from collaborating with immigration law enforcement, and recently co-sponsored a Invoice led by Rep. Austin Pfluger, R-Texas, aimed at helping Border Patrol crack down on cross-border tunnels.

“The congressman thinks the situation on the southern border is proof that we need immigration reform in America,” spokesman Nick Zeller said. “He believes we must prioritize border security to stop drug trafficking and discourage illegal entry into the country while working to improve the legal immigration system.”

Immigration became a last-minute issue ahead of the 2018 midterm elections – the first election between Golden and Poliquin – when Trump fueled fears of a so-called “caravan” of migrants heading for the border in October. But he hasn’t garnered the same attention since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with even the former Republican president talking less about him during his 2020 presidential campaign than he did in 2016.

This is still a major issue for Republicans. national Echelon Insights survey, a Republican-affiliated pollster, found in December that all voters disapproved of Biden on immigration policy more than any other issue, with just 39% rating his performance positively. But it was much more salient among Republicans, with 17% seeing it as the biggest problem facing the United States, compared with just 4% of Democrats.

Outside groups, such as the conservative American Action Network, have highlighted the border in paid advertising targeting Golden, with a digital ad claiming he should “stop Biden’s border crisis.” But the issue has not been featured as frequently as spending and inflation.

However, external spending, which has already topped $2 million, may be just getting started. The 2018 race between Poliquin and Golden set the record for the most expensive U.S. House race in Maine history up to that point.

Highlighting immigration in the 2nd District is part of a larger Republican strategy to frame this year’s election as a more generic cross-party fight in a year when Republican voters could be more energetic, a said Mark Brewer, a political scientist at the University of Maine.

“One of the things you want to do if you’re Bruce Poliquin is try to convince voters in Maine’s 2nd District not to pay attention to the individual Golden, but to paint him more broadly with a brush of Democrats “said Brewer.

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