U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (left) and Lucas St. Clair talk during a tour of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in June 2017. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Three Democratic candidates are running in the June 12 primary to challenge Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Jared Golden is the assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives and a veteran of the Marine Corps. Lucas St. Clair, who runs his family foundation, was instrumental in creating the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Craig Olson is a bookseller from Islesboro.

Golden and St. Clair are formidable candidates who each have strong, but very different, skills and backgrounds that they bring to this race.

We believe that St. Clair is the best choice.

St. Clair, who lives in Hampden, grew up in Piscataquis County in a home without running water, electricity or much money. He helped his mother make and sell candles and lip balm. Roxanne Quimby’s company eventually became Burt’s Bees, a lucrative business she sold a decade ago.

Much of St. Clair’s work was in the restaurant industry, from baking bread at 2 a.m. to operating a restaurant in Winter Harbor. After a stint in Seattle, he returned to Maine to run Elliotsville Plantation Inc., his family’s foundation, which managed land that Quimby had purchased in hopes of creating a national park in Maine’s North Woods.

The park plan was met with strong opposition; groups formed specifically to oppose it. St. Clair took over the job of working to convince Mainers that a national park was a good idea. Over the course of several years, he met with hundreds of people, many of them adamantly opposed to the idea and not afraid to let St. Clair know it. Slowly, support built, a process sped by the decline of the timber and paper industries in rural Maine and changes that were made to the land conservation plan as St. Clair listened to local residents and business owners. Gov. Paul LePage and Poliquin remained adamantly opposed to the plan, which was revised to call for a national monument when it was clear that Maine’s congressional delegation, except for 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, didn’t support the park proposal. The Bangor Daily News supported the monument proposal.

In August 2016, then-President Barack Obama declared more than 87,000 acres that the foundation had donated to the federal government as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. In its first year, the monument drew 30,000 visitors to the area near Patten and Millinocket, despite state and federal efforts to diminish the monument. Inns reported big increases in bookings, new businesses have opened and the region’s stagnant real estate market perked up. It was the biggest economic development boost the region had seen after several area mills shut down.

St. Clair’s determination to see this project through, and willingness to meet face-to-face with staunch opponents and to hear and react to their concerns, are solid preparation for serving in Congress, where negotiation and compromise are needed more than ever.

On the issues, St. Clair is progressive. He supports increasing the federal minimum wage, paid family medical leave, expanding Medicare to all Americans, and implementing national and international regulations and agreements to address climate change.

Golden, who lives in Lewiston, took a much different path to this primary campaign. He was enrolled at the University of Maine at Farmington when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks happened. He left the university to enlist in the Marine Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

After returning to the U.S., he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and struggled to access care and benefits from the Veterans Affairs department, an all too common problem for our veterans.

While working at a pizza shop, Golden met a dean from Bates College, who encouraged him to attend the private college. After graduating, Golden returned to Afghanistan to work as a volunteer school teacher and then worked for Sen. Susan Collins with the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

He was elected to the Maine Legislature in 2014 and quickly rose to a leadership role, where he earned the respect and praise of fellow lawmakers while introducing legislation to improve rail service, to lower prescription drug costs and, especially, to support Maine veterans by, for example, increasing their access to health care and removing barriers to employment.

Golden’s agenda focuses heavily on rebuilding the middle class and empowering working Mainers. He is backed by the Maine AFL-CIO and many other unions, along with numerous lawmakers, including House Speaker Sara Gideon.

The third candidate, Olson, was spurred to enter the race after Republicans in Congress voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which had made health insurance more affordable for his family. He sells rare books and has served as an Islesboro selectman and has run the transfer station. These are important roles, but Congress would be a giant leap.

Both Golden and St. Clair are prepared to serve in Washington. We believe St. Clair’s work with diverse groups to create a national monument gives him the edge in the Democratic primary for Maine’s 2nd District.

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