AUGUSTA, Maine — A former Google executive and aide to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who grew up in Arundel filed on Wednesday for the Democratic primary in 2020 for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
The entry of Ross LaJeunesse looks to have been carefully planned since he left the tech giant in May, but he has a scant profile in Maine after spending most of his career in California and Washington, D.C., as national Democrats have coalesced around House Speaker Sara Gideon.
Rumors of the 49-year-old’s entry emerged in Democratic circles this week, and he announced his bid to the Portland Press Herald on Wednesday. He didn’t answer requests for comment from the Bangor Daily News, but filed for the race with the federal government late Wednesday.
“I have a vision of one Maine, where our kids have a chance to succeed no matter where they live or where they’re from,” LaJeunesse said in a campaign video.
LaJeunesse registered to vote in Biddeford in May, which is also when he registered an apparent campaign website under his own name. He is a Harvard-trained lawyer who spent more than eight years at Google after a career in politics that included stints as deputy chief of staff to Schwarzenegger and an aide to former U.S. Sens. George Mitchell of Maine and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
At Google, he served for nearly seven years as the global head of international relations and was a high-profile voice for the company on speech issues that will likely factor into his campaign as members of Congress consider regulations on social media websites.
In a 2012 appearance before the conservative American Enterprise Institute, he compared the ability of this generation’s children to access information digitally to his childhood in southern Maine, saying the shift “has happened not because of governments, but because of the role of private companies and users and engineers.”
LaJeunesse is also a board member of a group that trains LGBTQ candidates to run for office, and he would be the first openly gay U.S. senator in history. He joins Gideon, lobbyist Betsy Sweet and Saco lawyer Bre Kidman as the Democrats running active primary campaigns against Collins, who has become a top Democratic target after her October 2018 vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Gideon is the front-runner in the primary after outraising Collins over the summer, though the incumbent has raised nearly $8.6 million as of September’s end, more than any politician in state history. The House speaker has been backed by Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, which may hinder LaJeunesse’s ability to hire staff and raise money absent self-funding.