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Jared Golden prevails over Bruce Poliquin after ranked-choice runoff

Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks with supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, speaks with supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden has officially retained his seat representing Maine's 2nd District in Congress.

Golden was declared the winner of the 2nd District race with 53% of the vote on Wednesday after a ranked-choice runoff held in Augusta.

He had a nearly 12,000-vote lead over former Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin after the first tally of ballots cast on Election Day. But he failed to garner more than 50% of the vote, so Maine’s law required the race to go to a ranked-choice runoff.

And, after entering more than 315,000 ballots into the secure computer system, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and her staff hit the button to retabulate the race.

In the end, 12,062 supporters of independent Tiffany Bond ranked Golden second on their ballots. That gave the Democrat more than enough votes to push him above the 50% threshold needed to secure a third term in Congress.

This is the second time in four years that Golden beat Poliquin in a ranked-choice runoff. Golden also beat Poliquin in 2018 with the help of Bond supporters who listed the Democrat second on their ballots.

With control of the House at stake, Maine’s 2nd District race drew more than $20 million in spending by the national parties and outside groups. Combined with more than $7 million in spending by the two leading candidates, that ranked the race as the eighth most expensive House contest in the country just prior to the election, according to the campaign finance watchdog group OpenSecrets.org.

Golden, a 40-year-old Marine Corps veteran who served several combat tours, represented his hometown of Lewiston in the Maine House for two terms before his election to the U.S. House. His victory in 2018 represented the first time in U.S. history that a congressional race was decided with ranked-choice voting. Golden then won the 2020 race outright against Republican challenger Dale Crafts.

Golden did not attend the ranked-choice runoff because the House is in session in Washington, although representatives of both the Golden and Poliquin campaigns were on hand to observe the entire process.

"The Secretary of State’s office and Maine State Police have performed their duties throughout the instant runoff process with professionalism and integrity,” Golden said in a written statement. “I am already back to work at my office in Congress, continuing to help deliver for my constituents and provide thoughtful, independent leadership for the people of our state.”

Poliquin focused much of his campaign against Golden on issues like inflation, energy prices, government spending, immigration and drugs coming across the southern border. He also tried to portray Golden as being too closely aligned with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and with President Joe Biden despite the fact that he has voted opposite of the pair more often than any other Democrat in the House.

A moderate Democrat, Golden campaigned on being an “independent voice” in Congress and on his history of voting opposite of his party leadership on key issues, much to the dismay of progressives here in Maine and some of his fellow Democrats in Washington. For instance, he worked with other House moderates to stymie passage of Biden’s Build Back Better plan. He also voted opposite of other Democrats on gun control, COVID-19 relief packages and a police reform passed by the House following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

But Golden is also a supporter of abortion rights and he voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Bond is a family attorney who lives in Portland but says she does much of her legal work in the 2nd District. She ran a nontraditional, low-budget campaign and received roughly 7% of the votes on the first tally.