December 14, 2017
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National Democrats recruit a Marine born in Maine to challenge Poliquin

By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff
Updated:
Don Eno | SJVT/FhF | BDN
Don Eno | SJVT/FhF | BDN
Rep. Jared F. Golden talks with audience members at a Town Hall meeting hosted by Maine Democratic party leaders, March 3, at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

The 2018 race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District got more interesting last week, when Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, said he’s thinking about running against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Democrats made a recruiting push for the seat last month. Golden’s name showed up Thursday in Roll Call as one of a few candidates who may take what’s likely an uphill run at Poliquin, a second-term Republican in a chamber where incumbents are hard to beat.

Golden might be the only one of the people named who will run alongside three Democrats who have declared — former Maine Senate candidate and builder Jonathan Fulford of Monroe, restaurateur Tim Rich of Seal Harbor and rural mail carrier Phil Cleaves of Dexter.

The 34-year-old is a Marine veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq during four years of service. He has been highly visible on veterans’ issues in Augusta. They’re a key constituency in the district and Poliquin sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

In an interview, Golden said he’s one of several potential veteran candidates discussing the prospect of running in 2018 with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democratic rising star and Marine veteran from Massachusetts, and that he’ll make a decision by summer’s end.

“I think we need more service-driven leaders who kind of put the country and people first and set aside partisanship and politics,” he said. “I think veterans have a background that can lend itself to that.”

Roll Call also named Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague and Maine Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash as potential candidates. Like Golden, both of them met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on their recruiting trip to Maine last month.

But Sprague, who flirted with a 2016 run at Poliquin, ruled it out in a Friday text message, saying he wants to see council work to completion and he’s “not interested in running for Congress.”

Jackson was only a bit more equivocal. He’s held a bit of grudge against national Democrats since his 2014 primary loss, when a national environmental group piled on a struggling campaign by naming him a list of candidates that they said sided with polluters.

He said he went to a meeting with the DCCC and it felt like a “meat market.” He said “state issues are closer to my heart” and “what I know better.”

So, Golden’s the one worth watching now. He would instantly rise to the top of the Democratic field and probably woo party donors. But Poliquin’s still a tough test.

This item was originally published in Daily Brief, a free political newsletter distributed Monday through Friday by the Bangor Daily News to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more of today’s Daily Brief, click here. To have the Daily Brief delivered daily to your inbox, click here.


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