Gun control and taxes were a main focus of the candidates in the second debate between the candidates in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on Wednesday as old legislative records came back to the forefront of the race.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman Democrat, and former state Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon, broke little ground on topics such as health care and federal coronavirus relief that have been top ones in a relatively sedate race that Golden has led handily this year after narrowly beating a Republican incumbent in the most expensive race in state history to that point.
Gun rights was a major issue in that race, but it has not been this time because there is relatively little daylight between the candidates. Both have favorable ratings from the National Rifle Association — though Crafts secured an endorsement and an A+ rating and Golden has a B — and both received the highest possible grade from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
Their standings have not always been so similar. One key difference was Golden’s vote in the Maine House of Representatives against a 2015 bill that repealed a concealed-handgun permit requirement. Crafts referenced that vote in an effort to paint Golden as an ally of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, whom Golden opposed for speaker in 2019.
“I’m sorry, Jared, but there’s a big contrast between you and I when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, Crafts said.
Golden pushed back, reiterating that he will not support Pelosi for speaker and often disagrees with her, including on guns. While he voted against a Democratic proposal to expand background checks in 2017, he reiterated support for a bipartisan bill that year that would have provided the background check system with more resources, prevented people from making straw purchases of guns and restricted felons from owning guns.
“My constituents know who I am,” said Golden, a Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Crafts has frequently referenced a 2011 budget bill led by Republicans that cut taxes as proof of his status as a fiscal hawk, despite ultimately voting against the measure in the end. He said while he supported the tax cut and worked with his caucus to create it, the final bill attached to it was simply too expensive.
Health care has also been a major issue in the race. Golden addressed his former support for a bill that would have created a “road map” to a Medicare for All system. Crafts reiterated his support of a “free-market” approach that includes protections for pre-existing conditions.
Golden has edged off support for Medicare for all — which he ran on in 2018 — in favor of a plan like one advanced by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that would include a public option for those who are not old enough to qualify for Medicare. The congressman said that while he supported the idea of universal health coverage for people, he got a “different picture” of the issue as he talked to constituents, businesses and health care providers.