Dale Crafts (center) delivers his opening statement during the start of a GOP debate Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 at Lewiston Middle School in Lewiston. Credit: Andree Kehn / Sun Journal via AP

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Republican voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District have three very different candidates to rank on the July 14 primary ballot.

The GOP candidates — former state Rep. Dale Crafts, former state Sen. Eric Brakey and Adrienne Bennett, who served as former Gov. Paul LePage’s spokesperson — are vying to be the Republican challenger to first term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, in the November election.

Unfortunately, none of them are moderates, which leaves many of the district’s Republicans without a candidate who truly reflects their views and priorities. The three Republican candidates on the July 14 ballot are seemingly competing with one another to be the biggest Trump supporter. This is especially concerning as a growing number of Republicans are expressing concerns about President Donald Trump and his handling of the many crises in America, particularly the coronavirus pandemic, which remains out of control in many parts of the country.

All three are also vocal critics of Gov. Janet Mills and her restrictions on businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. While there is room for criticism, theirs has too often failed to reflect the complex, intertwined efforts of promoting public health and bolstering economic recovery during this uncertain time.

All three candidates had thoughtful responses to questions about police brutality, racism and the need for criminal justice reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and the protests that his death prompted. They spoke of changes in police policies and procedures rather than larger reforms to address racial inequalities.

READ MORE: WHY WE ENDORSE

Crafts, a Lisbon businessman who served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives, has the most extensive experience and is a strong conservative who remains pragmatic. He matches the district’s brand of conservatism. We believe he deserves the first choice ranking of the 2nd District’s Republican voters.

Crafts, who was first elected to the Maine Legislature in 2008, has served during times of Democratic and Republican control of the State House as well as the two years of divided leadership. “We need to put party politics aside to work together,” he said during an interview with the Bangor Daily News.

We wish his policy proposals were more detailed and didn’t read like Republican talking points, especially when it comes to the federal budget and government regulations. We also disagree with his ultra-conservative stand on many social issues, such as abortion and marriage, which are out of line with the views of moderate Republicans.

But, on many of the large issues currently facing Maine and the country — such as rebuilding the economy and helping states and local governments that have seen their budgets cratered because of the coronavirus — Crafts has a thoughtful, open-minded approach. This contrasts with the more strident rhetoric from his opponents.

This election will use ranked-choice voting, which we realize many Republicans don’t favor and many may vote for just one candidate. However, GOP voters will also have a choice between two different personalities and styles in Brakey and Bennett.

We have appreciated Brakey’s work on bail reform and other criminal justice measures. However, his sometimes thoughtful approach to lawmaking is too often undercut by silly stunts — such as using a flamethrower to tell Golden, a Marine Corps veteran, that he’s “fired” — and extreme, and sometimes false, claims, especially about immigrants and refugees.

His opposition to federal financial assistance to businesses, individuals and state and local governments to weather the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic is a red flag.

Bennett, a real estate agent, has a compelling life story and has proven her ability to work hard under challenging circumstances, but those aren’t the only qualifications for serving the voters of the 2nd District in Congress. Her steadfast support of Trump and LePage may be appealing to many Republican voters, but many of their policies and actions have been harmful to the district, Maine and the country.

Bennett’s policy proposals lack depth and too often focus on “fighting.”

Given his depth of experience, both in lawmaking and business, we believe Crafts is a solid first choice for Republican voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on July 14.