Maine’s youngest state senator, 27-year-old Republican Trey Stewart of Presque Isle, has his eye on the 2nd District congressional seat that’s held by a two-term Democrat from Lewiston.

Trey Stewart Submitted photo

At the Maine Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfield this weekend, Stewart told a gathering of friends and family that he wants “to help write the Maine comeback story” by defeating U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, who knocked out GOP incumbent Bruce Poliquin in 2018.

Stewart is the second Republican to enter the race, following state Rep. Michael Perkins of Oakland. Other potential candidates are weighing their options in a district their party considers among the most likely to seize from a Democratic incumbent despite the 38-year-old Golden’s solid win in his reelection bid last year.

Stewart has some experience in taking on a Democratic incumbent and emerging victorious.

Last year, he ousted Democratic state Sen. Mike Carpenter of Houlton to win his Senate seat. Four years earlier, he knocked out another Democratic officeholder, state Rep. Robert Saucier of Presque Isle, to claim a state House seat shortly after earning his bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from the University of Maine.

Stewart, whose family has a long history of political involvement in Aroostook County, earned an masters in business administration from the University of Maine in 2018 while serving in the Legislature and is heading into his final year at Maine’s law school.

Stewart, who is single, said he intends to focus on “jobs, family and future” as a candidate.

“The United States has lost something over the last 18 months and I want to help get it back,” he said.

“I think a lot of Americans have come to see government as the answer to every challenge they face and I don’t see that as sustainable,” Stewart said in Fort Fairfield.

He said that as he has traveled around Maine, it appears to him that “the Maine state flags I’m used to seeing have been replaced by ‘Help Wanted’ signs.”

For Stewart, that’s an indication that “it’s time to get on the comeback trail,” and not a sign that the economy is humming as the impact of the pandemic lessens, as Democrats say.

Among Republican leaders, including Poliquin, there has been a focus in recent weeks on repealing a $300-a-week federal unemployment payment put in place to assist workers coping with COVID-19 issues. They argue doing so will push more people into the workplace.

“It’s not rocket science to understand what happens when government spends your hard-earned tax dollars to pay able-bodied workers as much or more to go fishing than to go back to work: Many accept the taxpayers’ gift and go fishing!” Poliquin wrote recently on social media.

Maine has had a 4.8% unemployment rate for the past five months, with 32,500 people collecting state unemployment. Participation in the labor force is down more than 3% from a pre-pandemic high, but those people who are not counted as participating are not collecting any state or federal unemployment.

Stewart said he would like to “create new incentives for hardworking Mainers to open small businesses.”

“We cannot continue to expect government to be all things to all people,” he said, “We’ve got to get back to these fundamentals that support middle-class families and allow all of us to pursue the American dream.”

The Republican primary is slated to take place nearly a year from now on June 14, 2022. It will be decided by ranked-choice voting.

Bangor Republicans Peggy Sheriff and Michael Sutton filed papers to challenge Golden in 2022 but both later said they’re not going to run after all. Poliquin opted not to run for his old seat in 2020 but hasn’t made a similar vow about the 2022 race.

In addition to Golden and the GOP’s candidate, there may be independents in the general election in November 2022. One, Jordan Borrowman of Lewiston, has already declared his intention to challenge the major party contenders he argues are not conservative enough.

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