LEWISTON — Jared Golden, a Democratic state lawmaker and Marine combat veteran, announced Thursday that he is entering the 2018 race for the U.S. House, challenging incumbent 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican.

Golden, 35, served tours with the U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning home to Maine, where he earned a bachelor’s degree at Bates College in Lewiston. He is the Democratic assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives.

Golden is the fifth and, so far, most prominent Democrat to enter the race against Poliquin, who is serving his second term in Congress. Poliquin easily defeated his last challenger, Emily Cain, a former Democratic state lawmaker from Orono, in 2016.

Other Democrats who have announced a bid for the seat include Jonathan Fulford, owner of a construction business in Monroe; Tim Rich, a restaurant owner in Bar Harbor; Phil Cleaves, a Dexter mail carrier; and Craig Olson, an antique book dealer on Islesboro. Voters will select the party’s candidate during a primary next June.

After studying at Bates, Golden said he returned to the war-torn countries where he fought, first volunteering as a teacher in Afghanistan and later working for a logistics company in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He then worked in Congress for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, as part of the staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Golden, now serving his second term as the state representative for Maine House District 60, grew up in Leeds and lives in Lewiston with his wife, Isobel, who serves on the Lewiston City Council.

On Thursday, Golden questioned Poliquin’s record of protecting Maine jobs and took aim at him for supporting a recently failed effort by Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“Everyone knows Congress must fix Obamacare to increase coverage and lower costs, but instead Bruce Poliquin voted to take coverage away from millions of Americans,” Golden said.

Poliquin’s political adviser, the Maine Republican Party and the National Rifle Association all quickly issued statements criticizing Golden, a sure sign that he is seen as a credible challenger to the incumbent’s bid for a third term.

“Young Jared Golden looks good on the surface, but diving deeper you find an extreme Augusta liberal politician,” said Brent Littlefield, Poliquin’s political adviser.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said Golden’s assertions that Poliquin hasn’t done much to secure jobs for Mainers “are simply out of touch and not true,” and that Poliquin had opposed Republican leaders in Congress to vote against trade policy changes that would hurt Maine.

The NRA’s national spokesman, Lars Dalseid, said Golden opposed legislation that removed concealed-handgun permit requirements in Maine and supported legislation requiring a federal background check for private firearms sales in Maine.

“His votes to deny Maine residents their constitutional right to self-protection and punish law-abiding gun owners for the criminal actions of others are just two of the many reasons why voters should reject his run for the U.S. Congress,” Dalseid said.

Golden said none of the votes in question reduced the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns. “I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away unless they are not legally allowed to possess them,” he said. “I would like to go shooting with Bruce Poliquin sometime and see who knows their way around an AR-15 assault rifle better.”

Golden said the early attacks out of Washington are what he expected.

“This is classic Bruce Poliquin,” he said. “All of his D.C. buddies in Washington, D.C., have been preparing for weeks now, figuring out how they were going to take a swing at a Marine because Bruce Poliquin is unwilling to do it himself.”

As a state legislator, Golden has served on both the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and the Transportation Committee, developing a reputation as an advocate for veterans, immigrants and infrastructure improvement. He helped pass bills that expanded the capacity of the state’s Bureau of Veterans Services and provided free tuition for members of the National Guard at the University of Maine System campuses and the state’s community college system.

Golden joined the Marine Corps in 2002 while attending college at the University of Maine-Farmington, serving four years on active duty. He said his experiences while growing up and working on his family’s Springbrook Golf Course, where he still works as greenskeeper in the summer, guided him during his military service.

“Each Marine is expected to carry their own weight, to watch each other’s backs and to work as part of a team to get the job done,” he said.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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