AUGUSTA, Maine — Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden will be Democrats’ nominee to run against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the 2nd Congressional District in November after the Maine secretary of state released unofficial ranked-choice voting tallies on Wednesday.
That result was no surprise, but the ranked-choice voting method that Maine voters endorsed in 2016 held up the two-term state representative’s victory for eight days after he fell just short of winning an outright majority in last week’s three-way primary in the district.
Golden, 36, of Lewiston dispatched conservationist Lucas St. Clair of Hampden after the first round of ranked-choice tallying, winning 54 percent of votes to St. Clair’s 46 percent. Islesboro bookseller Craig Olson was eliminated, having won 9 percent of first-round votes.
“I know we can fix our expensive healthcare system, take power back from the special interests, create middle-class jobs that pay respectable wages with real benefits, and build a better future for Maine,” Golden said in a statement.
Golden will face off in a nationally targeted race against Poliquin, who first won the seat in 2014 after it was controlled for two decades by Democrats. The district still leans slightly in Democrats’ direction by voter registration, but it has seen a rightward shift during the era of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
In 2016, President Donald Trump won the rural district in a historic split of Maine’s four electoral votes, aiding the Republican to victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. During the campaign, he outflanked her on opposition to free-trade agreements that have long been unpopular in parts of the 2nd District where manufacturing jobs vanished over the past 40 years.
Poliquin has proven himself to be a prodigious fundraiser and cagey operator in Congress. He defeated longtime Democrat legislator Emily Cain in 2014 and 2016. He sits on committees overseeing the financial sector and the Department of Veterans Affairs and raised $2.8 million for this year’s campaign by late May, more than half of it from political committees.
Golden is a Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He was the favorite of many leading Maine and national Democrats to take on Poliquin in 2018 over St. Clair, who fronted his family’s effort to found the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
There were few differences between the two on policy, but the main issue of the campaign came after a shadowy group called the Maine Outdoor Alliance started placing advertisements that touted St. Clair without mentioning his campaign, exploiting a disclosure loophole in campaign finance law. It spent an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV and mail ads.
Poliquin’s seat will be nationally targeted for the third straight race and it was nationalized quickly by partisan campaign arms. The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee called Golden “the Nancy Pelosi of Maine” for a “a radical liberal agenda — even though Golden didn’t back his party’s divisive House minority leader during his primary campaign. Their Democratic counterpart said Golden is “on track to win back this district.”
Poliquin and Golden will face two independents in November — lawyer Tiffany Bond, who lives in the 1st District city of Portland and has eschewed campaign contributions for a social media-driven campaign in which she asks people to support Maine businesses, and educator William Hoar of Southwest Harbor.
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