Poliquin may have to go through a Marine veteran to keep his seat

National Democrats may have their man in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District: Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden of Lewiston said he’ll announce his run against U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin at a news conference today in his home city.

Golden, a 35-year-old Marine veteran, is in just his second legislative term and has a climb to unseat the two-term Republican. But the district still leans Democratic on paper and Golden stands out in the five-person Democratic field, the rest of whom are relative political neophytes.

“It’s time for a new generation of leaders that will fight for you, not the political establishment that has failed us,” he said in an announcement video.

The Leeds native joined the Marines as a University of Maine at Farmington student in 2002, served for four years in Iraq and Afghanistan, graduated from Bates College in 2011 and later worked as a national security aide to Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.

Golden came back to Maine to served as a staffer for legislative Democrats before running to represent downtown Lewiston in the House of Representatives in 2014. He won two terms easily in the heavily Democratic district and has worked on veterans issues in Augusta.

That’s already a key focus for Poliquin, who is on the committee overseeing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The rural 2nd District, which is more conservative than the rest of the state, was one of only 63 districts that was projected by the VA to have more than 65,000 veterans in 2015.

Golden’s background may allow him to engage on those issues more effectively than Emily Cain, Poliquin’s two-time opponent. But Cain proved herself to be an able fundraiser who could rival the Republican in a chamber where incumbents don’t get beat often.

While Golden comes from the largest city in the district, he has a lot to prove in trying to move from Augusta to Washington and still has to go through four primary challengers — two-time Maine Senate candidate Jonathan Fulford of Monroe, restaurateur Tim Rich of Seal Harbor, bookseller Craig Olson of Islesboro and rural mail carrier Phil Cleaves of Dexter.

His campaign will kick off with a news conference in Lewiston’s Kennedy Park at 10:30 a.m. We’ll be there, so check back later for that news. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Gov. Paul LePage said he has been getting death threats after his ‘both sides’ response to the violence in Virginia and doubled down on his recasting of Civil War history. The Republican governor told WGAN on Thursday he has gotten letters “threatening to kill me” after he blamed white nationalists and counter-protesters equally for the racially charged violence earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a Nazi sympathizer is suspected of killing a protester by mowing his car into a crowd. On Tuesday, he said that 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, even though the head of the Maine State Archives said that number is probably closer to 30. He said he got the figure from an archivist, noting that the figure could have been for Confederate sympathizers over a wider area. But he also said on Thursday he was told that “something like 20,000” Mainers fought for the Union. The actual figure was 73,000, according to the National Park Service. — Michael Shepherd
  • LePage said he won’t run for Senate again on Wednesday (after saying he won’t run and then saying he might), but said ‘nothing’s final’ on Thursday. Confused? You’re not alone. The Portland Press Herald reported that the governor told a Rotary Club gathering that he’s ruled out a run against U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, next year. But then he told WGAN on Thursday that “nothing’s final in life.” LePage has wavered since his political strategist said he wouldn’t run against King back in May, saying in July that he may run if the campaign of state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, falters. Brakey is still alone among declared party candidates running against King, a former two-term governor who is heavily favored to win. — Michael Shepherd
  • Former Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett said he won’t run for governor in 2018. The Norway CEO of ValueEdge Advisors, a company that aids institutional investors, told reporters at a Wednesday event that he doesn’t intend to run to replace LePage next year. He has been considering it since he announced in December that he’d leave as chairman. Bennett told the Bangor Daily News he has “other things to do,” citing his business. Former Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew of South China is the only Republican who has declared so far. Collins is considering a run and looms over the rest of the field, but other Republicans are expected to announce runs shortly. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Everything’s better with butter

Given the churning tumult over statues of political leaders, we hesitate to spread the word on a situation north of the border that could quickly slide us down a slippery slope. But art wins out.

Sticking to a centuries-old tradition of butter sculpture, a team of Canadian artists fashioned 2,700 pounds of butter into statues, including one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holding baby pandas. Trudeau is the latest in a line of political leaders, apparently dating to Mary Queen of Scots, to be portrayed in butter.

He also could claim the line of butter heartthrob succession that features this 2013 butter bust of John Stamos. Will Justin and the pandas melt more hearts than that classic?

There’s probably a bad line about a buttery liberal prime minister and the health risks of free radicals, but we’ll let you spread that one. Tell us which Maine politician you would like to see carved in butter at next year’s lobster festival by emailing politics@bangordailynews.com.

And if you need to make a toast, here’s your soundtrack — Robert Long

Programming note

The Daily Brief will take a respite on Friday so we can sharpen our No. 2 pencils, get our “first day of school” haircuts and make sure our trapper keepers comply with all rules for the new school year. Enjoy the weekend. We will be back Monday.

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at politics@bangordailynews.com. If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

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.