Democrats might have found the Mainer they want to challenge Poliquin

The 2018 race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District got more interesting last week, when Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, said he’s thinking of running against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2018.

Democrats made a recruiting push for the seat last month. Golden’s name showed up Thursday in Roll Call as one of a few candidates who may take what’s likely an uphill run at Poliquin, a second-term Republican in a chamber where incumbents are hard to beat.

Golden might be the only one of the people named who will run alongside three Democrats who have declared — former Maine Senate candidate and builder Jonathan Fulford of Monroe, restaurateur Tim Rich of Seal Harbor and rural mail carrier Phil Cleaves of Dexter.

The 34-year-old is a Marine veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq during four years of service. He has been highly visible on veterans’ issues in Augusta. They’re a key constituency in the district and Poliquin sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

In an interview, Golden said he’s one of several potential veteran candidates discussing the prospect of running in 2018 with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democratic rising star and Marine veteran from Massachusetts, and that he’ll make a decision by summer’s end.

“I think we need more service-driven leaders who kind of put the country and people first and set aside partisanship and politics,” he said. “I think veterans have a background that can lend itself to that.”

Roll Call also named Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague and Maine Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash as potential candidates. Like Golden, both of them met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on their recruiting trip to Maine last month.

But Sprague, who flirted with a 2016 run at Poliquin, ruled it out in a Friday text message, saying he wants to see council work to completion and he’s “not interested in running for Congress.”

Jackson was only a bit more equivocal. He’s held a bit of grudge against national Democrats since his 2014 primary loss, when a national environmental group piled on a struggling campaign by naming him a list of candidates that they said sided with polluters.

He said he went to a meeting with the DCCC and it felt like a “meat market.” He said “state issues are closer to my heart” and “what I know better.”

So, Golden’s the one worth watching now. He would instantly rise to the top of the Democratic field and probably woo party donors. But Poliquin’s still a tough test. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Susan Collins had some advice Sunday for Donald Trump on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’: “Step back.” Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made the comment when asked about Trump’s recent statements regarding an ongoing investigation into Russian officials interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Last week, Trump told the New York Times that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should not recuse himself from the investigation or at least if he was planning to, he should have told Trump before Trump nominated him. [Trump] “should not say anything further” and let special counsel Robert Mueller “carry out the investigation and make his determination.” Regarding new allegations that are bubbling up about Sessions’ involvement, Collins said we should be careful about spreading unsubstantiated rumors but that the committee will “follow any credible allegation as part of our investigation.” — Christopher Cousins
  • A new Green Party candidate has joined the gubernatorial race. She’s having a 420-friendly party. Betsy Marsano of Waldo filed Thursday to run for governor in 2018, becoming the second member of the Green Independent Party to join the race after Jay Dresser of Bangor. There’s a potluck supper scheduled at her home on July 30 to kick off the campaign and an online invitation from the Waldo County party committee says “kids are welcome and it’s also 420 friendly in a designated area.” Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Michael Shepherd, teen reporter

As if we haven’t seen enough of each other in the State House lately, Chris and I went to a Portland party this weekend to celebrate the 60th birthday of the often-unseen force behind the Daily Brief, editor Robert Long.

It led to a question from Chris’ precocious young son, Lucas, who asked me if I work with his dad. Yes, I said.

“That’s weird, because you look like a teenager, you’re just really tall,” he said.

He’s not wrong. Here’s my soundtrack. And here’s yours, Robert. — Michael Shepherd 

Programming note

The Daily Brief will take a day off on Tuesday. We’ll see you Wednesday.

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Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.