Former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn kicked off his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District at a diner in Auburn on Tuesday.
A self-described libertarian Republican, Brakey told a crowd of roughly 50 supporters at Rolly’s Diner that he’s running on a platform of liberty from government regulation, government-run health care and needless involvement in foreign wars.
“I’m running for Congress because I believe in a free Maine where our children can find good-paying jobs, start their own businesses and raise their families right here, not have to flee for other states for job opportunity,” he says.
Brakey's message was designed to appeal to diehard libertarian voters and a Republican party now controlled by President Donald Trump.
"I believe in a free Maine and a free America. And that means Washington, D.C. needs to mind its own business, get out of our jobs, get out of our health care, get out of our gun closets and get out of Afghanistan," he said.
The 31-year-old Brakey has been a fixture in the libertarian wing of the Maine Republican Party since 2012, helping activists takeover the party's state convention that same year as they fought to send delegates for former Texas congressman Ron Paul to the national convention.
That bid was foiled by the Republican National Committee, but Brakey went on to serve two terms in the Maine Senate, often by pursuing nontraditional GOP policies like expanded access to medical marijuana while also embracing an absolutist view of the right to bear arms.
Brakey left the Senate in 2018 to take on independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, losing by nearly 19 points in a three-way race. He drew criticism from pro-Trump activists because he was late to support the president -- and also from the left for coming to embrace the president's rhetoric about immigration.
Now Brakey is attempting to topple Golden, a former combat veteran who has moderated his positions to align with a 2nd district that Trump won in 2016.
But Brakey may not be the only GOP candidate. Adrienne Bennett, a former spokeswoman for former Gov. Paul LePage, has also signaled interest in joining the race.
Brakey registered as a candidate in June and has begun raising money ever since.