LEWISTON, Maine — A Republican congressional hopeful in a highly competitive Maine race is spreading misinformation about the state's housing policies, public housing directors said.
Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin is challenging Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who narrowly defeated the Republican in 2018. During his campaign, Poliquin has relayed a story about a woman living in her car who allegedly told him she was taken off a housing list because of immigrants who are living in the country illegally.
Poliquin, who has focused his campaign on issues such as curtailing immigration and protecting gun rights, used the anecdote as part of his argument for increased border security.
The Maine Association of Public Housing Authority Directors rebuked the story on Thursday with a statement to the Bangor Daily News that did not name the candidate but came in response to his statements. The statement said: “Such misinformation erodes trust in the public housing system on which so many individuals and families depend for safe, quality affordable housing, and it cannot be left uncorrected.”
Eligibility for federal housing assistance is limited to U.S. citizens and noncitizens who have eligible immigration status, federal rules state.
Poliquin told the story during an interview with NEWS CENTER Maine when he said he met the woman at a Lewiston event. He said she told him she was at the top of the list to get an apartment but was “bumped down the list because folks have come to this country illegally.”
Roy Mathews, a spokesperson for Poliquin, said on Friday that the story is genuine but gave no evidence to corroborate it.
"Bruce was elevating this middle-aged homeless woman’s voice and experience with her need for housing available in Maine," he said. "This reality is very troubling."
The appeal of Trump-style politics has grown in the district since the 2018 election despite the fact it is represented by Golden, a moderate Democrat. Poliquin, who represented the 2nd District as a moderate Republican from 2014 to 2018, has shifted his own messaging rightward to try to take advantage of those headwinds.