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Lucas St. Clair Says He's Running for Congress, Shaking Up Democratic Primary Field

Nick Woodward
Maine Public
Lucas St. Clair in Bangor on Monday.

Lucas St. Clair, credited with helping persuade residents in the Millinocket region to support the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, now hopes he can convince Maine voters in the 2nd District to send him to Congress.

St. Clair, 39, told supporters during a breakfast gathering at the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket on Monday that his experience working with locals in the Millinocket region influenced his decision to run for the Democratic nomination for Congress.

“And so it’s given me the confidence and feeling of capability that we can take that same type of effort and bring it to the United States Congress and start to unwind some of the challenges that are faced there,” he said.

St. Clair also described Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin as “unresponsive” to the needs of rural Mainers.

Credit Nick Woodward / Maine Public
Maine Public
Lucas St. Clair in Millinocket on Monday.

“The 2nd District needs to be recognized as a priority, and my goal of going to Congress is to take the same approach that we did here — with the polarization, bring people together, build unique coalitions of people and really focus on making the government work for us,” he said.

At a press event in Bangor Monday afternoon, St. Clair said Poliquin has let 2nd District communities down by refusing to support the Affordable Care Act.

“When Bruce Poliquin voted to take health care away from 110,000 Mainers, he put those very communities at risk,” he said. “He put the interests of his political party ahead of real lives and real families living here in Maine. Bruce Poliquin has let you down — he’s let all of us down.”

St. Clair offered three promises to the district’s voters.

“I can’t promise that we’ll always agree and I can’t promise that it will always be easy, but I can promise you three things,” said St. Clair. “I will always tell you the truth. I will get up every day and work to make sure you all get a fair shake. And regardless of the issue you’ll know where I stand.”

St. Clair’s entry into the race shakes up an already crowded field of Democratic candidates. He’s the sixth Democrat to declare so far. His connection to the region, success in creating the national monument and personal wealth put him in the top tier of Democratic contenders.

St. Clair is also closely aligned with environmental and conservation groups, meaning his candidacy could be bolstered by a broad network of activists. Additionally, St. Clair’s advocacy for the national monument has given him experience with the same peer-to-peer outreach that could benefit him during a campaign.

The son of Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, St. Clair is credited with tempering local hostility and distrust incited by his mother when she purchased roughly 100,000 acres of former timberland in Maine’s North Woods shortly after she sold most of her holdings in Burt’s Bees in 2004.

Quimby announced that she planned to make the area a national park, but angered residents by closing off the land to hunting and snowmobiling — and also taking it out of timber production. Her dream of a national park stalled amid fierce local opposition and no support from Maine’s congressional delegation.

St. Clair took over the advocacy effort in 2013, effectively becoming the public face of Quimby’s Elliotsville Plantation. An avid sportsman and fly fishing guide, he began turning public opinion when he announced Elliotsville Plantation would open 40,000 acres of the property to hunting and ATV riding.

St. Clair joins five other Democrats vying to take on Poliquin next year. The field includes assistant House leader Rep. Jared Golden, a former Marine who is part of Democrats’ nationwide effort to recruit military veterans as congressional candidates.

Phil Cleaves, Jonathan Fulford, Craig Olson and Tim Rich have also declared their candidacy.

Rumors that St. Clair would run for Congress have persisted for several months. But the speculation intensified when he confirmed reports that he is returning to the 2nd District and moving his family there. He lives in Portland but he's moving his family to Hampden.

He was born in Dover-Foxcroft and graduated from Gould Academy.

Brent Littlefield, speaking on Poliquin's behalf, portrayed St. Clair as privileged and whimsical.  

"Bouncing from job to job and state to state Lucas has now decided he is a politician," Littlefield said in a statement. "From being an attempted gourmet chef through his college training in London, to a wine expert in Seattle, to spending his family’s money ignoring the will of local voters, he has moved on to thinking he should be a politician."

Littlefield also criticized St. Clair's plans to move to the 2nd District.

Poliquin faced similar criticism when he first ran for Congress in 2014, making his home in Oakland his full-time residence despite owning an oceanfront home in Georgetown in the 1st District.

The Democratic field is broad, but St. Clair and Golden are arguably the best-known and connected to activist groups that could marshal support on their behalf. St. Clair also has the benefit of personal wealth, an asset that could come benefit him in a tight primary contest or in a general election race with Poliquin, who has already raised over $1.2 million for his re-election campaign.

The 2nd District contest is also likely to draw immense interest from groups and political action committees that can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the contest. The 2nd District is one of two dozen swing seats in the House, and Democratic and Republican aligned interest groups have frequently targeted the district.

Maine Public reporter A.J. Higgins contributed to this story.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.