BANGOR, Maine — After a bruising primary battle for Maine's 2nd Congressional District seat, Republicans promoted party unity Friday as they look to reclaim the vast, rural district and maintain control of the governor's office this November.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Republicans must rally behind their common desires to create jobs and improve the economy and stressed that there's room those with differing views in the party.
"What unites all of us is a commitment to growing more jobs, to make sure that Maine people have the opportunities that they deserve and that they want," she said at an event in Bangor. "We need to put every Mainer back to work."
Maine's 2nd District seat has been filled by Democrats for nearly two decades, but Republicans see U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud's departure as an opportunity to double the number of Republicans in the state's congressional delegation, from one to two. Michaud is leaving Congress to challenge Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
"Sen. Collins needs help," LePage said. "She can't do it alone."
During the often-combative primary for the seat, Kevin Raye, a former chief of staff to moderate U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, framed himself as the establishment candidate and a consensus builder while opponent Bruce Poliquin criticized him as a career politician who would cave on core GOP values.
Poliquin, the former state treasurer who won the party's nomination Tuesday, emphasized the need to attract Democrats and independents to the GOP by promoting itself as the party of opportunity and jobs. He also stressed his willingness to work with Democrats.
"We will work with anybody, anywhere, any side of the aisle, to make sure that we bring more jobs and more opportunity and more freedom back to the state of Maine," said Poliquin, who was elected with support of tea party activists, libertarians and conservatives. He will take on Democratic state Sen. Emily Cain in November.
Raye was not at the rally and has not returned calls seeking comment. Poliquin ignored questions Friday about Raye's absence.
Democrats blasted the Republicans' message of unity. They also pointed to Raye's suggestion earlier this week that Poliquin — who they said is part of a "wave of extreme right-wing candidates winning primaries nationwide" — will make it more difficult for the GOP to reclaim the district.
"Every day the GOP tells the people of Maine they are unified behind Paul LePage and Bruce Poliquin is a good day for Democrats," said Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party said in a statement. "Their extreme views are out of touch with Maine people from Kittery to Fort Kent, and there are many in the GOP who know this is a problem."
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