AUBURN — Republican Eric Brakey, a former state senator, said Wednesday he is likely to run for Congress next year against first-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, who captured Maine’s 2nd District seat last year by knocking off a Republican incumbent.

Eric Brakey acknowledges his supporters Nov. 6, 2018, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Brakey, who has formed an exploratory committee for the race, said he will announce this summer whether he’ll pursue a run.

Both Golden and Brakey have said they like each other, but their political differences will offer voters a sharp distinction if they wind up competing in what is virtually certain to be a close, costly election.

Golden said recently he’s not worried about a challenge from Brakey.

“I welcome anyone to run,” the congressman said. “I was not under any illusion that I would be unopposed.”

Nobody has yet formally declared an intention to challenge Golden, who pulled off a narrow upset that ousted two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin, who may be eyeing a rematch.

Brakey, 30, who lives in Auburn, said his decision about whether to run won’t be influenced by Poliquin’s choice.

“I’m making my decision independent of Bruce Poliquin,” and if that creates a GOP primary next June, he’s fine with that.

He said a friendly primary would offer the party the opportunity to have a full discussion of the “things that matter” that face the district and the country.

Brakey gave up his state legislative seat in 2018 so he could focus on what turned out to be an unsuccessful campaign against U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who easily won re-election in a three-way race.

Brakey’s campaign showed some strength, though, in the rural and far-reaching 2nd District, where he beat King in Piscataquis and Somerset counties.

He said Golden hasn’t done enough on Capitol Hill to fight for his district.

“He’s just playing it safe,” Brakey said, serving as little more than “a quiet rubber stamp on the road to serfdom.”

Brakey, who grew up in Ohio, is a libertarian in his outlook, a political philosophy that is deeply skeptical of government and not always in alignment with the Republican agenda.

“I believe that liberty is the answer to most of our problems,” Brakey said, insisting that Mainers don’t want “faceless federal bureaucrats” creating policy and dictating how Americans should live.

Mainers, he said, “can fix our problems better than they can” if they’re allowed to address them.

Brakey said he is working on a core agenda that he would try to promote during a congressional race.

Among the issues he is sure he’ll talk about extensively is the need to call a halt “to decades-old wars that never end,” such as the one in Afghanistan where Golden fought as a Marine 15 years ago.

Brakey said everyone responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that shocked America is either captured “or in the ground.”

There’s no reason, he said, to continue fighting a costly war in Afghanistan that has cost the lives of many soldiers and left others to return home “maimed in body and spirit.”

Brakey said Congress has to do more to “keep us out of foreign wars.”

He said, too, that he wants to tackle the growing reliance on federal regulation to deal with issues for which Congress ought to be the decision-maker.

For instance, he said, rules to protect the endangered right whale are making it harder for Maine’s lobster business without doing much of anything to help the whales, whose untimely deaths appear to be attributable mostly to getting hit by ships off Canada.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Golden has tried to tackle the issue, Brakey said, but it shows something about his effectiveness that he could only round up 11 other Democrats to support his position on the right whale rules.

Golden said last week that he tried to help his constituents who depend on catching lobsters.

What happened is that Golden convinced House leaders to let him offer an amendment to a recent appropriations bill that would have delayed implementation of the rules pending a study of the best approach to assist the whales. It failed by a wide margin, attracting a dozen Democratic votes despite tough opposition from environmental groups that didn’t want the amendment approved.

For Brakey, it is an example of bureaucrats run amok. But regulators were trying to impose rules based on laws aimed at protecting endangered species that specifically call on federal agencies to figure out  the details of what’s needed to carry out lawmakers’ intent.

The bottom line, Brakey said, is that by failing to take on the responsibility for major regulations, “Congress isn’t doing its job.”

Brakey, who moved to Maine after college, in part because his family has long roots in the state, had a productive record during his four years in the State House, pushing through everything from major welfare reform to concealed carry of firearms by those over 21 without the necessity of securing a permit.

This year, he’s been leading the Free Maine Campaign to mobilize grass-roots supporters to lobby legislators in Augusta to defend gun rights and other issues, including the effort to protect Maine’s electoral votes in the presidential election.

“We won on every issue,” Brakey said, a testament to the power of people to make a difference when they speak up.

Brakey said politicians always have “a strong interest in getting re-elected,” so they listen more than most voters suspect.


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