Politics & Other Mistakes: Golden era?

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Jared Golden’s time in office representing Maine’s 2nd Congressional District could be characterized as a success. After all, no one has compared him to Ted Cruz.

Admittedly, that’s a low threshold.

Given that Democrat Golden’s district voted for Republican Donald Trump for president by sizable margins in the last two elections (one of only 16 districts in the country that voted in 2020 for a representative and president of different parties, according to Daily Kos), it’s safe to assume his seat is less than secure. So, it’s no surprise that the National Republican Congressional Committee has targeted Golden for defeat in 2022.

According to an NRCC press release, Golden and 46 other Democratic representatives from districts where Trump did well or where redistricting favors the GOP have backed “job-killing initiatives,” “defunding the police” and a “socialist agenda.” In addition, Republican officials told Roll Call, these leftists have supported alternative energy, more lenient immigration, and keeping kids from attending school in person.

In reality (not a district currently represented by Republicans), Golden hasn’t exactly been marching in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi. Roll Call reported he voted with his party 88.5 percent of the time, compared to 97.3 percent for the average Dem, making him one of the biggest mavericks in Congress. In early February, he was the only donkey-party member to oppose President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package, and last week, was one of just two Dems to vote against the measure again, telling the Associated Press, “This bill addresses urgent needs, and then buries them under a mountain of unnecessary or untimely spending.”

Golden’s rebellious ways have come at a cost. Roll Call lists him as below average in effectiveness at getting bills passed. He spent much of his first term in the political wilderness, shunned by more liberal colleagues and spurned by those on his right.

In his second term, that isolation could be easing. Golden was recently appointed vice chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, a position that gives him considerable influence over how much federal money flows to Bath Iron Works and other Maine companies. That job could also be used to constrain him from future deviations from the party line if he doesn’t want to see those funds diverted to districts represented by more malleable legislators.

There’s a good deal of uncertainty about just how vulnerable Golden will be in 2022. Polls during last year’s campaign had him amassing near-landslide numbers against a little-known opponent, causing the NRCC and other PACs to redistribute the money they had once planned to spend in the 2nd District to more competitive races. But when Election Day rolled around, Golden won by a much smaller (although still significant) margin than the surveys had predicted. If the funding had been there for the Republican candidate, many strategists argued, Golden would have been defeated.

Maybe.

The GOP nominee, Dale Crafts, benefitted from receiving minimal scrutiny from the news media because he wasn’t considered a serious contender. If his more extreme views on abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, and dealing with the pandemic had received more publicity, Crafts might not have experienced a late surge in popularity.

Golden doesn’t yet have an announced Republican opponent for next year, but there are plenty of possibilities.

Crafts might give it another try. Bruce Poliquin, who lost this seat to Golden in 2018 by the narrowest of ranked-choice margins, froths at the mouth at the prospect of a rematch. Adrienne Bennett lost to Crafts in the 2020 GOP primary but established herself as a prospect. More than a few Republican state legislators have convinced themselves (in the absence of any real evidence) that they have what it takes to serve in Congress.

Another obstacle to Golden winning a third term is Paul LePage. The former Republican governor may seek to return to his old job next year, putting him at the top of the GOP ticket. LePage still has considerable coattails in the 2nd District and could be a factor in a close race.

On the other hand, Golden’s opponent might get endorsed by Ted Cruz.

Having second thoughts about the 2nd District? Email them to aldiamon@herniahill.net.