Democratic State Rep. Jared Golden, of Lewiston, announced Thursday that he’s running for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.
Golden, 34, is the assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives, where he is in the middle of his second term.
He is a veteran of the U.S. Marines, serving four years with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Golden’s decision to enter the race reflects a national trend for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is aggressively recruiting veterans to carve into the so-called “guns and guts” vote that Republicans have successfully courted in contemporary elections. At least 20 veterans nationwide have declared as Democratic congressional candidates for the 2018 mid-term election.
During a press conference at Kennedy Park in Lewiston, Golden said the push by national Democrats to run didn't influence his decision, but he acknowledged that other veterans are getting involved in politics.
"I'm excited to be working with people like Seth Moulton," he said, referring to the Democratic congressman from Massachusetts. "There's a lot of veterans around this country that are getting active, getting involved. I like to say that we've already served before but we're not done serving. We've got more to offer."
Golden’s candidacy sets up the possibility of a contest against Poliquin, who just like his predecessor, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, has made repeated overtures to Maine veterans.
Maine is one of the top states with veterans as a percentage of the adult population.
Poliquin's reelection campaign wasted little time attacking Golden for his votes in the Legislature. In a statement, Brett Littlefield said Golden "looks good on the surface but diving deeper you find an extreme Augusta liberal politician."
Littlefield also referred to Golden as "young" in his press statement and repeatedly on Twitter.
Golden is two years older than two Republicans who have won the 2nd Congressional District seat, including former U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and William Cohen, who both won the seat at age 32.
Poliquin's campaign and the Maine Republican Party also targeted Golden for his votes in the Legislature, saying he voted against a bill that would penalize so-called sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants and effectively make local enforcement agencies an arm of federal immigration authorities.
The bill failed in the Republican controlled Senate and the Democratic controlled House.
Golden dismissed the attacks as "boilerplate talking points."
"Look there's no sanctuary cities in Maine," he said. "We have immigration going on here in Lewiston. You know what, go talk to the people of this community, see if it hasn't helped spur some economic growth ... I've represented some of the poorest people, in one of the poorest districts in this state and I've always stood up for them. People want to talk about welfare reform, that's fine. You want to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, I'm on board."
He added, "Most of the programs are federal programs. So I'd ask what has Bruce Poliquin done to reform welfare? I'd say he should work to put people to work."
Golden also said Poliquin talked about veterans issues a lot, but had done little.
While party activists are preparing for Golden-Poliquin matchup in 2018, the Democrat will first have to win a Democratic primary growing increasingly crowded with candidates. Jonathan Fulford, a builder who has twice, and unsuccessfully, run for the Maine Senate, has also declared, as has Phil Cleaves, Craig Olson of Islesboro and restaurateur Tim Rich.
This story was originally published on Aug. 24, 2017 at 9:53 a.m. ET.