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Politics

Caratunk official and CMP critic joins GOP race for Maine’s 2nd District

A third Republican has entered the race for Maine's 2nd Congressional District, which has flipped between parties twice in four elections.

Liz Caruso is a registered Maine guide, the former owner of an outdoor recreation company and the first selectman in the western Maine town of Caratunk. The 52-year-old says she was inspired to run for Congress while representing her hometown in the fight against Central Maine Power's controversial corridor project and later as a spokesperson for the successful Question 1 campaign.

But in announcing her candidacy on Monday, Caruso staked out positions aimed squarely at her party's hard-right conservative base. She accused the "far left" of attempting to "destroy" the U.S. while seeking to convert the country to socialism. The 52-year-old talked about election integrity, resisting the teaching of "critical race theory" in schools and about fighting for religious freedom and medical freedom, in this case in opposition to vaccine mandates.

"You know, I think that Mainers across the state and certainly in conservative District 2 are crying out to be heard, to be valued,” Caruso said in an interview. “Certainly they want their freedoms to be defended in Washington."

In order to challenge two-term Democratic Congressman Jared Golden next November, Caruso will have to defeat the presumed Republican frontrunner, former congressman Bruce Poliquin, as well as state Rep. Michael Perkins in a June primary. Poliquin is already getting support from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm of the national party. And the organization has listed Maine’s hotly contested 2nd District race as a top priority for the 2022 mid-term elections as Republicans attempt to retake control of the U.S. House.

Caruso says she respects and voted for Poliquin but believes district voters "have had enough with politicians." And she has a hired a national Republican campaign consulting firm to assist with the start-up of her bid for the GOP nomination. Caruso filed her statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission late last week.

Maine’s sprawling 2nd District has become a national battleground in the parties’ power struggle over the House. While 2nd District voters have sent Democrats and Republicans to Washington in recent years, the electorate has a much more conservative lean than voters in the southern and coastal communities that comprise Maine’s 1st District.

Poliquin, a former investment manager, flipped the district in 2014 after Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud opted to run for governor rather than a seek a seventh term. But Poliquin lost to Golden – a Marine Corps veteran and former state lawmaker – four years later in the nation’s first congressional race to be decided through a ranked-choice election. The moderate Democrat won reelection in 2020 with 53 percent of the vote despite former President Trump capturing the district’s presidential vote.

Maine voters will use the ranked-choice process in 2022 in any congressional primary or general-election contests that have three or more candidates.

Updated: November 16, 2021 at 12:28 PM EST
This article has been updated with additional context on the race for the 2nd Congressional District.