Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen speaks prior to the lecture at the Collins Center in Nov. 5, 2019, file photo. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Maine’s William Cohen bucked his party on Wednesday to endorse Democrat Joe Biden for president.

In a Wednesday statement released by the Biden campaign, Cohen said he will vote for the Democrat because “our democracy is at stake.”

“We have a choice in November; whether to go back to our dark past or reach for who we aspire to be — a country where it doesn’t matter where you came from, how you worship or who you love, a country where everyone matters. … Our nation has been shaken to the core during the last four years. We are in serious need of a leader with optimism and competence who gives us hope. Joe Biden is that leader,” said Cohen, who was born in Bangor.

Cohen blasted President Donald Trump, a Republican, for “poor management” and “failed leadership” during the coronavirus pandemic that has contributed to the deaths of nearly 180,000 Americans.

Cohen has been a vocal critic within Republican ranks of Trump’s performance while in office and as a candidate in the 2016 election. Cohen, who voted to impeach Republican President Richard Nixon as a freshman lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, said last fall amid the failed impeachment effort that Trump sounds like a “dictator” who has no regard for the rule of law. In June, Cohen called Trump a “nationalist” for white people over his resistance to removing monuments to Confederate leaders.

This isn’t the first time that Cohen bucked his party to back a Democratic candidate for president. In 2016, he endorsed Hillary Clinton in her failed White House bid.

Cohen represented Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for three decades and served as defense secretary under Democratic President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001.