Poliquin wrong to denigrate veteran’s experience, age

Imagine if someone ran a campaign against our Second District congressman by calling him “Old Bruce Poliquin.”

Stating that, at 64, he’s too old to make rational decisions. Stumbling around Washington, unable to distinguish the men’s room from the ladies’ room, it’s gotten pretty obvious that his advanced age has become a real obstacle, and something voters should consider when casting a ballot next November.

Ridiculous, right?

Of course Poliquin’s age shouldn’t be an issue in his reelection campaign for Congress. It’s absurd and insulting to suggest he’s unfit for office.

Equally absurd and equally insulting is the suggestion that a 35-year-old man who has served his country in combat would be too young to serve Maine in Congress.

But that’s exactly what Poliquin and his political team are saying right out of the gate about Democratic congressional candidate and Marine Corps veteran Jared Golden.

Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden, left, visits with business owner and farmer Joy Bouchard of Fort Kent during a campaign stop last month. Don Eno | SJVT

When Golden announced his candidacy recently, Poliquin’s team took to social media, denigrating him as “Young Mr. Golden.” Age and experience were established immediately as the key points of attack, and the Maine GOP chorus jumped right in on the “Young Jared” refrain.

Poliquin himself signed an email that went out to supporters, using the phrase “Young Jared” or “Young Mr. Golden” four times.

Put aside the fact that Golden is three years older than Bill Cohen was when he was first elected to the same seat in Congress, and four years older than Olympia Snowe was when she became Maine’s Second District congresswoman.

Here’s the real point: Golden is a United States Marine, who served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and took live fire.

Military service doesn’t give anyone a free pass in politics, but it does establish some hard facts right away.

First, Golden does not lack experience. Most voters would agree that getting shot at on foreign soil during wartime is a little more real-world than managing pension plans in an office in New York, as Poliquin did.

Second, Golden’s service to his country, and the very real fact that he put his life on the line to protect the freedom of people like Poliquin, establishes a fortitude of character that millions of dollars of political advertising can’t begin to touch.

An argument of age or experience against someone with this background is simply foolish.

It’s even more foolish when the totality of Golden’s resume is examined: he served in the Marines, worked for the State Department setting up schools in Afghanistan, worked as an aide to the Senate Homeland Security Committee under Sen. Susan Collins in Washington, was elected multiple times to the Maine House of Representatives, and currently serves as Assistant House Majority Leader.

Not a bad record for guy that still has his hair. But this hasn’t deterred Poliquin from making his experience an issue.

What’s worse, Poliquin’s email actually cites Golden’s military service directly, claiming his candidacy is part of a Democratic Party scheme to use veterans as trojan horses to install uber-liberals in Congress:

“Multiple national news stories note the Democrats recruiting candidates who can attempt to appear somewhat moderate, or conservative, because they have previous military service.

The problem with Jared Golden and so many others?  They are deep down, Washington-style, liberals.”

These attacks are unnecessary. Poliquin has a completely legitimate argument to make about bringing fiscal restraint to Washington, and when he focuses on it, he makes it well. But attacking his opponent personally opens up a front that reveals Poliquin’s own vulnerabilities.

Northern Mainers, despite electing him to Congress twice, know very little about Poliquin’s background. His official biography says he started his business career “in Chicago and the City,” and his achievements seem to be confined to vague money-making ventures on Wall Street. There is little personal relationship between Poliquin and Second District voters yet, and his home-grown story has never been effectively established.

Golden, on the other hand, has a very simple and understandable story: he joined the Marines after 9/11, served his country, came home, and works for his family business and serves his community in the Legislature.

There are no questions about where he’s from, or what he’s done, what district he lives in, or whether he’s paid his taxes or not.

Poliquin should not be making character and experience an issue in this campaign.

What he should be doing is focusing on the issues. He should be explaining his plans for health care, tax reform, and foreign policy. He should be laying out the case that reelecting him to Congress will help bring jobs to Maine. He should be aggressively drawing distinctions between Golden’s views on the issues and his own.

He should not be picking a character fight with a guy that put his life on the line for his country.

Poliquin, no matter how old he is, will never win that battle.


Lance Dutson

About Lance Dutson

Lance Dutson, a principal of Red Hill Strategies, is a Republican communications consultant. He has served on the campaign teams of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte, as well as the Maine Republican Party.