Two independent candidates vying for Republican Bruce Poliquin’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives are hanging in the race despite odds that are long at best.
Tiffany Bond, who lives in Portland but says she’ll move into Maine’s 2nd Congressional District should she win, and Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor have been overshadowed by the close – and since their first debate this week – contentious battle taking place between Poliquin and his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston.
According to recent polling, Golden is within three points of the incumbent. Together, Hoar and Bond are polling at a combined 3 percent chance. Neither has large war chests, the backing of a major party, or much name recognition.
Do they have any shot of pulling out a victory? Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine, thinks not.
“She’s (Bond) dealing with a well-funded incumbent and a pretty high-quality challenger. It’s difficult for any non-party candidate to win,” he says. “Her name recognition is pretty low. I don’t believe she even lives in the district. No, I think it would be virtually impossible to imagine a scenario in which she could win the race.”
As for Hoar, Brewer says he may be “running with an eye towards the future, to build name recognition and prepare for another race. You’ve got to be actively campaigning though and if he has, I haven’t really seen it.”
Still, Bond and Hoar are running, with points to make.
Bond’s bid: a rejection of business as usual
Tiffany Bond, an attorney, has in her favor command of the subject area and a well of energy. Working against her is her outsider status: she’s not a resident of District 2.
Right now, we spend millions in every Congressional race and it’s just blown on crappy ads that don’t tell you anything and don’t contain any information. Can you imagine (millions) going to small businesses or nonprofits? It would be huge.”
— Tiffany Bond, candidate for Maine’s 2nd District Congressional seat
And she is running a bare-bones campaign. She intentionally has no campaign staff, and to counter the waves of cash buoying Golden and Poliquin, Bond is taking a novel approach and refusing all donations. She tells supporters to spend the money they’d contribute at a local business in the 2nd District instead. If supporters do that, she says, and promote their purchases with the hashtag #MaineRaising, she gets free advertising through social media and demonstrates that she’s committed to keeping money out of politics.
“Right now, we spend millions in every Congressional race and it’s just blown on crappy ads that don’t tell you anything and don’t contain any information,” she says. “Can you imagine (millions) going to small businesses or nonprofits? It would be huge.”
Bond, 41, understands the odds but says she’s excited by the prospect of what she could do if she did win.
Originally from Portland, Ore., she came to Maine to earn a degree from the University of Maine School of Law. She and her husband are raising two children, ages 5 and 7, in Portland.
Bond says she would focus her career in Congress on crafting laws instead of scoring points with soundbites. Too many politicians are more focused on winning than on making law, she contends, and they should operate more like those in her profession do.
“Congress should have the same duty to constituents as lawyers do for their clients,” Bond says. “Sometimes at the peril of not getting along with your client.”
Hoar contends many voters eager for other options
Hoar, 35, of Southwest Harbor, is a native of New York City. He was drawn to Maine, where his family had vacationed for four generations, to escape the city for a better life. He’s a special education teacher and lives with his wife in one of the showcase gems of the state, Mount Desert Island.
Like his fellow independent Bond, Hoar has almost no campaign footprint and says he’s relying mostly on social media and television to get his name and views across.
“I believe Mainers deserve a nonpartisan representative who’s looking out for nothing but their best interests,” he says. “I was an American history major in college, and all of our founding fathers warned against where we are right now: this divisive, disunited arena where’s there’s no civil discourse, no working together.”
Hoar says he was spurred into running because of his views on healthcare and the opioid crisis. His wife suffers from a chronic illness and he has been in recovery for alcoholism for 11 years. Vulnerable Mainers are being ignored in Washington, and neither party is properly addressing healthcare issues, he says.
“When Poliquin voted against the Affordable Care Act, I realized this was not just an affront to my wife but an affront to people all over,” says Hoar, adding that his campaign is a way to “destigmatize people suffering substance-use disorder and showing that there is a way up from the bottom of addiction.”
Lack of name recognition has been a big hurdle for him. “The only thing that I’ve really confronted has been, ‘where have you been and why haven’t we heard of you?’ ”
Hoar says ranked-choice voting could make him a viable option, and he remains optimistic that his potential constituents will be receptive to his message and platform.
“Thirty-four percent of Mainers are independents,” says Hoar. “They genuinely are not happy with the way the system is going and they don’t feel represented. They feel eager for any other options.”