U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, left, and Republican challenger Dale Crafts face off in their first televised debate of the 2nd Congressional District campaign on Thursday in Bangor. Screenshot from video

The first 2nd Congressional debate Thursday proved a low-key, civil event where both U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and his Republican challenger, Dale Crafts, agreed more than they differed.

The first-term Democrat from Lewiston and the Lisbon businessman who hopes to unseat him on Nov. 3 each said that political leaders need to set an example to help end the bitter partisanship that has left Congress struggling to get anything done.

The pair did offer diverging opinions on a number of issues, though, including the Affordable Care Act and the need for pandemic relief for local and state governments.

Though the 2018 congressional race in the mostly rural district proved one of the closest and most costly in the country, with Golden ultimately ousting a two-term GOP incumbent, this year’s campaign has been surprisingly quiet, at least by comparison.

The major reason is that Golden, who has far outpaced Crafts in fundraising, appears to have a nearly insurmountable advantage heading toward Election Day.

Echoing a handful of previous polls, the respected Portland-based Pan Atlantic Research Omnibus Poll released Thursday found that Golden has a 27-point lead in the district, with the backing of 60% of voters compared to 33% for Crafts. Only 7% were still undecided.


The poll determined that Golden led in every income group by a wide margin and topped Crafts among independents by a 68-24 margin.

Republican congressional candidate Dale Crafts of Lisbon, right, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston.

The polling never came up during the hour-long, televised debate in Bangor sponsored by WABI and WAGM. Questions instead focused on wide range of issues.

It opened with perhaps the one where the two differed most, on the Affordable Care Act passed almost a decade ago by President Barack Obama that expanded healthcare coverage to 20 million Americans and guaranteed covering for pre-existing conditions and for young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until they reached the age of 26.

Golden said the ACA “should be left in place” when the U.S. Supreme Court reviews it next month and lawmakers should “do everything we can to make it function and work as best that we can.”

Crafts denounced it as something that has “not been very affordable.” He favors abolishing it, as the Trump administration has asked the court to do.

Crafts said he favors a free market solution that he thinks would lower costs, be more accessible and deliver higher quality care. He did not explain any details of his plan, which largely matches what President Donald Trump has promised but has not yet delivered.


At one point, Crafts said that Golden “voted to get rid” of the ACA in favor of a Medicare-For-All proposal, but the congressman said he has never voted for Medicare-For-All and actually cast a vote to keep it from coming to the floor of the U.S. House.

Both men said they favor a new round of pandemic relief, an issue that’s been stalled in Washington for months. Crafts and Golden said compromise is the key.

They disagreed, though, about one potential piece of a measure.

Crafts said there shouldn’t be any money included “to bail out a lot of these failed states” that are facing serious budget shortfalls related to the pandemic.

Golden said that without the $250 billion for local and state governments that even Trump is willing to include, towns, cities and states “will soon be facing layoffs if we don’t do something to help.”

It’s an issue that Maine is eager to see addressed. The Legislature’s Revenue Forecasting Committee estimated a couple of months ago that Maine will face a $523 million shortfall for the fiscal year that began on July 1, with more red ink in the subsequent two years.


Both candidates agreed there should not be a federal mandate for people to wear masks to help thwart the spread COVID-19. They each said rural issues need more attention. They each said they oppose the Green New Deal. Both said they are against defunding police but favor more efforts to train officers to handle tough situations better.

The two men sparred only briefly over a few issues, with exchanges that seemed polite compared to much of what’s gone in recent years.

“The divisions have got to stop,” Crafts said. “So much hatred” is “not the way to live,” he said as he called on leaders to “set the example” for everyone.

If politicians can’t do more to find common ground, he said, “We’re at this point in this country if we don’t do that I don’t see the future looking very good.”

“Dale is right. This is something where political leaders have to set the example,” Golden said.

He said that in his campaign, he has sought to “walk the walk” and to avoid smearing opponents by calling them extremists.

“I don’t blame and scapegoat the other side,” he said.

There are two more debates slated next week.

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