Jared Golden, the Democratic candidate in Maine's 2nd District, stands outside the polls in Lewiston in June.

BANGOR, Maine — Jared Golden of Lewiston appeared poised to turn his position as the Maine House majority leader to the Democratic nominee for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District after fending off two primary challengers Tuesday.

Golden trailed in early election results collected Tuesday night, but his fortunes reversed and he surged into the lead for good, with 53 percent support at around midnight. Conservationist Lucas St. Clair and bookseller Craig Olson trailed with 39 percent and 9 percent of the vote, respectively.

If Golden maintains a majority of all votes cast, he will win the Democratic nomination outright. But at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, it was too early to determine whether a winner would emerge or if the contest would go to a second tabulation under Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system.

Golden expressed optimism about the outcome while addressing supporters late Tuesday night.

“I may very well carry this district’s hopes and dreams into Washington in November,” Golden said to a crowd of supporters in Lewiston late Tuesday. “A millionaire hedge fund manager like Bruce Poliquin doesn’t know jack about what it means to be a middle-class Mainer.”

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* This race will be decided by ranked-choice voting. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of total votes, the Maine secretary of state will conduct a second ballot tally at a later date to determine the winner.

NAN% reported

Golden was backed by the Maine AFL-CIO, the progressive Maine People’s Alliance and many in Maine’s Democratic establishment. The two-term state legislator was recruited by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a fellow Marine veteran, after serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

St. Clair was the favorite of Maine’s environmental community after serving as the public face of his family’s bid to establish a national park near Baxter State Park, which was completed with former President Barack Obama’s 2016 creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument after a high-dollar lobbying effort.

He left his campaign gathering in Brewer late Tuesday night.

It was divisive, with nearby communities holding votes against the monument in 2015 and 2016. St. Clair rescued the project after his mother, Roxanne Quimby, the millionaire co-founder of Burt’s Bees, divided many on it after starting to buy up land in the area since 2001.

Quimby hung over the primary race after a group called the Maine Outdoor Alliance spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads and mailers to promote St. Clair without mentioning his campaign or disclosing donors. The League of Conservation Voters also came in with $100,000 in pro-St. Clair advertising during the last weekend of the campaign.

There were few major policy differences. St. Clair and Golden both took progressive tacks and hit Poliquin for his votes last year for the failed Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the tax cut package passed by congressional Republicans and championed by President Donald Trump.

Midterm elections are often bad for the president’s party, and Trump has only a 42 percent approval rating, according to recent averages from RealClearPolitics. But unique factors could make the 2nd District less competitive than it looks.

It was won by Trump in a historic 2016 split of Maine, and the district has never seen an incumbent lose in its lose modern-day configuration. Poliquin largely avoided mentioning Trump in that race and raised $2.8 million for his campaign as of last month.

BDN writers Christopher Cousins, Nick Sambides Jr. and Alex Acquisto contributed to this report.

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...