National Republican groups have already poured more than $700,000 into Maine’s 2nd District this year as they try again to unseat Rep. Jared Golden, though who will oppose the sophomore Democrat in 2022 remains unclear.
Golden won reelection last year by 6 percentage points over his challenger, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, even as former President Donald Trump also won the district by more than 7 points. He now represents the most Republican-leaning district held by a Democrat, according to the Cook Political Report, although districts will change by next year due to redistricting.
That alignment has made Maine’s 2nd District an appealing target for national Republicans in their effort to regain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives next year. Early money in the district has reflected that, with national groups, led by the American Action Network, a dark-money nonprofit, dumping money into the district over the past few months.
The latest ads — which are similar to ads the group has run in several other congressional districts — go after Golden on infrastructure, suggesting that a bill would require harmful tax increases. Infrastructure funding remains up for debate in Washington, although President Joe Biden has indicated he will not support a tax increase on people making less than $400,000.
Golden, who has backed a $1.25 trillion infrastructure plan put forward by the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, suggested earlier this month that Congress could look to bolstering IRS enforcement as one potential funding mechanism but said he would consider other options too with negotiations ongoing.
The American Action Network previously targeted Golden over a Democratic-led measure aiming to reduce prescription drug costs. As a 501(c)(4) organization, the group does not have to disclose its sources of funding, though tax documents indicate its financial supporters in the past few years have included the CEO group Business Roundtable, the National Retail Federation and Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House Republicans’ campaign arm, has spent in a more limited capacity in the 2nd District, attacking Golden over support for an offshore wind project, although several Maine Republicans have backed the same proposal.
Golden, along with other Maine political figures, saw his popularity dip in a Digital Research Inc. tracking poll released earlier this month, though more respondents still approved of his performance than disapproved. He posted strong fundraising numbers in the first quarter of 2021, with more than $500,000 raised.
While national Republicans have indicated the district is a priority for them, the field is far from set. State Rep. Mike Perkins, R-Oakland, a third-term lawmaker with a law enforcement background, announced in April that he would be exploring a run and formally filed with the Federal Election Commission in May, which allows him to start raising money.
Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, whom Golden defeated in 2018, has been floated as another potential candidate and would enter with a higher profile than most other potential candidates should he choose to jump in. He has not said definitively whether he is considering another run. Crafts, who struggled with fundraising in 2020 but still finished with 47 percent of the vote, indicated in April that he may run again but did not respond to an inquiry Monday.
Several other state legislators, including Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, and Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, said they are not planning to run.