Blaine Richardson, an independent candidate in the 2nd Congressional District race, got a call from Republican opponent Bruce Poliquin late Thursday asking him to drop out.
Richardson posted an account of the exchange on his personal Facebook page. In an interview Friday, Richardson said Poliquin called him at 9:30 p.m. Thursday with “a sense of frustration in his voice,” asking him to withdraw, which the candidate said he won't do.
“Really, he’s concerned,” Richardson said of Poliquin. “His point of view was that I’m going to be a really bad guy if Emily wins by one vote.” Emily would be Emily Cain, the state senator and Democratic candidate in the race.
Poliquin's call can be seen as an acknowledgement of the race's political calculus: Some have said Richardson's involvement could hurt Poliquin and give an edge to Cain in the battle to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat running for governor.
Ever since Richardson, a conservative independent from Belfast, announced his run in January, observers have said his presence on the ballot would hurt the Republican candidate in the race. In a surprise finish, he won more than a third of the votes in a district Republican primary in 2012.
In a statement, Poliquin campaign manager Matthew Hutson confirmed that Poliquin made the call, saying "former Richardson supporters who know he has no chance of winning the election" asked him to speak to the candidate about the race. Poliquin "asked Blaine to join them and support him instead of working with Emily Cain," he said.
However, "Blaine seemed more interested in working with Emily Cain to bash Bruce rather than have a discussion on the future," according to Hutson.
Before Poliquin's call, Maine Republicans dismissed the possibility that he will be a factor in this race. He wasn't included in the only public poll of the race so far, commissioned by the Portland Press Herald in June, but less than 1 percent of respondents said that they would vote for someone other than Cain or Poliquin.
Richardson said Poliquin should be more concerned with his own campaign than asking him to leave the race.
“I’m not worried about the other candidates,” Richardson said. “I’m worried about how I’m going to get my message out.”