AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican voters in Maine’s 1st Congressional District will decide Tuesday between Mark Holbrook and Ande Smith, who are competing for the right to take on incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree in the fall.

Holbrook said he’s the more conservative choice in the race.

Holbrook has been campaigning for the GOP nomination for more than a year, meeting voters one on one and in small groups at local Republican gatherings. He is a clinical counselor, but he also has been a police officer, worked on a commercial fishing vessel and has been an instructor for the National Rifle Association gun safety program.

Holbrook, who is married with a daughter, is critical of President Barack Obama and Pingree, who, he said, want to raise taxes. He has a distinct philosophy of government, which he shared with an audience at the Republican state convention.

“The American economy has stagnated because the liberals have placed a target on the backs of the middle class,” he said. “Obama is bankrupting our nation. We are $19 trillion in debt.”

And he is not just a fiscal conservative. He falls to the right on the issue of national security and supports repealing the Affordable Care Act and reducing taxes.

“Obama and Maine’s progressive rubber stamp in Congress demanded the 2 percent of our wage earners — who are already paying over half of our taxes, by the way — aren’t paying enough and want them to start paying their fair share. I think their socialist ideology is twisted and un-American,” he said.

Holbrook usually focuses his campaign message on on how he plans to defeat Pingree, but when reminded he first has to win the primary, he portrayed Smith, his Republican primary opponent, as “not conservative enough” on several key issues.

“You know, I am very much pro-life and he is not. I am very much for securing our borders with a fence or a wall or whatever is needed, he’s not. I am very much for keeping refugees out, he’s not. He says we can let them in and we can vet them properly. I say no, we can’t,” Holbrook said.

He said when voters in the 1st District are offered the option of a true conservative to challenge the liberal policies of Pingree, he will win. But several political scientists, including Mark Brewer of the University of Maine, question that assessment — at least in the state’s traditionally progressive 1st District.

“I think that the 1st Congressional District of Maine is strongly Democratic, strongly liberal Democratic and an extremely safe Democratic district,” Brewer said.

That opinion is shared by Colby College government professor Tony Corrado, who said the 1st District hasn’t really changed that much.

“Realistically, if we look at the voting patterns in the district, it’s been the case that it is a strong Democratic district, that Chellie Pingree is still well-liked in the district and it will be a difficult district for the Republicans.”

But Holbrook believes he has a campaign plan to get his voters out to win the primary and then go forward to defeat Pingree.

So far Holbrook is operating on a shoestring, raising less than $40,000, with about $10,000 of that from his own pocket. That contrasts with Smith, who has raised about $150,000, with about $20,000 of that being his own money.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.