Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, a Democrat, filed papers Wednesday to run in 2016 for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maine’s 2nd District.

The move sets up a primary contest with Emily Cain, who lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2014, ending Democratic control of the seat after 20 years. Poliquin is now one of the national Democratic Party’s top targets and the party is already backing Cain in 2016, which could make Baldacci an underdog.

But the 50-year-old lawyer and his recognized name could hinder Cain, a former state senator from Orono, and test Democratic loyalties in and around Bangor, where family members – including his older brother, former congressman and Gov. John Baldacci – honed their political skills while busing tables and serving spaghetti at their Italian restaurant.

Joe Baldacci has been publicly considering a run since January, but he filed with the Federal Election Commission without formally announcing it on Wednesday. He didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Cain spokeswoman Sarah Russell didn’t immediately return a message, and Poliquin adviser Brent Littlefield said the campaign might comment after Baldacci makes his announcement.

Baldacci said in a June statement that 2nd District voters are looking for “strong and positive leadership” that’s focused on economic issues, including protecting Social Security and Medicare, raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and promoting affordable health care.

At the city level, Baldacci has been most focused lately on the minimum-wage issue. In February, he proposed establishing a minimum wage in Bangor of $9.75 an hour, $2.25 higher than the state minimum, by 2018. However, that plan didn’t get majority support from city councilors at a meeting Monday, so Baldacci pulled it from consideration before an official vote. It could be taken up later this year.

It’s unclear how Cain and Baldacci will differentiate themselves in the primary. Cain campaigned on raising the minimum wage in 2014, both have been open to a proposal to create a national park in Maine’s North Woods, and their likely bases of support overlap in the Bangor area.

Although Baldacci has a well-known name, he starts the race with a key disadvantage: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm, is fully behind Cain.

Last month, she attended a wine-reception fundraiser in Washington, D.C., with heavy-hitting House Democrats on the guest list, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, the committee chairman. But when asked about Cain’s party support in June, Baldacci said, “Washington insiders aren’t going to decide this election. The people of Maine are.”

Cain announced for the 2016 race in March, but she has lagged behind Poliquin in fundraising so far. He raised more than $1 million in the first six months of 2015 to Cain’s $288,000.

Still, she probably is better known in the district than Baldacci, who hasn’t held office outside of his home city. He considered running for the 2nd District seat in 2014, but he announced in late 2013 that he wouldn’t, saying his first obligation was to his law practice.

“I very much would like to serve Maine in Congress, and it would be an honor and a privilege at some point to do just that,” he said at the time.

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 213-0182 or at:

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