ELLSWORTH — U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin met with about a dozen local businessmen Tuesday at the Seaboard Federal Credit Union.
In the informal setting, topics revolved mostly around financial issues, a world the freshman Republican, who represents Maine’s Second Congressional District, is quite familiar with. Poliquin worked in finance in Chicago and New York before serving as Maine’s state treasurer. Now, he is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
Poliquin opened the floor by asking, “What are you seeing in Ellsworth?”
Those in attendance voiced concerns about cyber attacks, credit card fraud and ever-mounting banking regulations, among other things.
Poliquin chatted for about an hour before leaving to make other stops along the coast.
Although Poliquin is a newcomer to Congress, he’s shown he isn’t afraid to buck Republican leadership.
“I don’t work for the Republican Party. I don’t work for the leadership,” Poliquin said in an interview after the gathering. “I work for families — 650,000 hardworking Mainers and the small businesses that employ them in the Second District.”
In late July, Poliquin voted against a Republican-supported bill that would have banned mandatory labeling of products that contain genetically modified organisms.
“I’m a single dad,” Poliquin said. “When I was buying food at Shaw’s or Hannaford, I wanted to know what’s in that food.”
He also was one of only three Republicans to vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in February.
“One of the things that I’ve found that is not widely discussed is that [the Republican Party’s] tent is a very big tent,” Poliquin said. “We have a lot of people that think very independently…I bucked leadership on this, and they were very understanding.”
Poliquin calls two areas his greatest accomplishments in office thus far: his work to help paper mills and the passage of the Child Support Assistance Act.
He said he’s advocated for mills throughout the state, citing Twin Rivers Paper Co. in Madawaska, Sappi Paper in Skowhegen and, most recently, Madison Paper Industries.
The Child Support Assistance Act is the first bill Poliquin has sponsored. It passed 56-2 in the House Financial Services Committee at the end of July.
“Effectively, it’s to make it easier for child assistance agencies to chase down deadbeat parents and make sure they pay the money that’s owed to their kids,” Poliquin said. “I’m really proud about that.”
As the 2016 Democratic primary takes shape, with Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci joining 2014 challenger Emily Cain in the race, Poliquin says he wants to stay focused on his work in Washington right now.
“They’ll sort it out on the other side, and whoever it is, we’ll be ready,” Poliquin said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained an error. This was not Poliquin’s first visit to Ellsworth since his election.