Maine’s Wide-Open Primary
Olympia Snowe’s retirement leaves an open field.

Charlie Summers, Maine’s secretary of state


From Waterville, Maine, Bruce Poliquin is the state treasurer, a position he has held since 2010. He ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination that year, but after losing to Paul LePage, he campaigned vigorously for the nominee. The newly Republican-controlled state legislature appointed him treasurer at the end of the year.

“I’m running because I have concluded that Maine is so dependent on Washington that we cannot fully fix the fiscal mess in Maine without addressing head-on the financial crisis in Washington,” he says. Poliquin was in the private sector for 35 years, working at an investment-management firm and other small businesses around the state. Asked to differentiate himself from the other candidates, he says: “First, I’m the only candidate who has run a statewide campaign before. Second, I’m the only true fiscal conservative with a track record. And third, we’ve been very successful at fund-raising.”

“I’m very encouraged by and impressed with Congressman Ryan,” Poliquin says. “The part I like about his budget is that he’s dead serious about cutting all of government spending. I don’t think he cuts enough soon enough, but he also is very serious about paying down our debt.” Poliquin has a plan of his own for saving Social Security: “The way to do it is raise the retirement age for new entrants and also slow down the rate of growth of benefits.”

On foreign policy, Poliquin’s perspective is more general: “If I have the honor to serve the state of Maine in the United States Senate, I will make it very clear what I will need to know in order to get behind the use of military force: why we’re going in to wherever it may be, what our objectives are once we get there, what the trigger points will be to determine when we’re going to leave, and what it will cost. Military intervention should be rare, legal, and constitutional, and we need to bring our kids home.”

Like Poliquin, Attorney General Bill Schneider has been in his current office for a little over a year. He graduated from West Point in 1981 and served in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret until he broke his back in a service-related injury; he will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Schneider thinks his military service makes him stand out.

“As Senator Snowe has said, the environment in the U.S. Senate is difficult and partisan,” Schneider says. “I have done difficult things, like jumping out of planes at night in a foreign country. I do use a wheelchair, and putting my life together and returning to public service after that life-altering injury is a difficult thing that I’ve done successfully. I’m not afraid of a difficult environment in Washington. I’ll be able to accomplish things nonetheless.”

On the issues, Schneider speaks broadly. “I think Paul Ryan’s approach to the budget is good,” he says. “But I think we need to take a step back. We need to have a balanced-budget amendment. We can’t continue to borrow for our current needs.”

Concerning Social Security, Schneider observes, “I think people who are nearing retirement age need to get what they’ve been expecting, but going forward, we need to look at the expected expenditures and income and change them so they’ll work.”

He speaks with special passion about the military. “Having an announced timeline for withdrawal is extremely irresponsible,” he says. “The mission in Afghanistan is to make sure the Taliban and al-Qaeda can’t go back and use it as a home base. When we’ve done that, I think we will have accomplished our mission and will bring our troops home.”

Schneider is optimistic when it comes to Iran: It’s “very possible” to obstruct their nuclear-weapons program, he maintains. “We need to take a hard line with the Iranians and make it absolutely clear we will not tolerate their development of a nuclear weapon. Every option is on the table.”