HERMON, Maine — The longtime spokeswoman for former Gov. Paul LePage filed to run for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday, highlighting long-standing support for President Donald Trump and calling the incumbent Democrat “soft-spoken.”
The entry of Adrienne Bennett, a 40-year-old real estate agent, throws a wild card into a budding Republican primary in the swing district. The former reporter was one of the more visible faces of the eventful LePage era. Her own political profile is undefined.
“I feel this is the next platform to share Mainers’ stories, and they need somebody who is going to be an advocate and understand them, and tell their story and be able to implement policy that is going to help them,” she said in an interview with WVOM.
Three Republicans are expected to be in the race by week’s end: Bennett and former state Sen. Eric Brakey, the party’s U.S. Senate nominee in 2018, are the only candidates to file so far, while former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon has scheduled a campaign kickoff on Thursday.
Brakey started in Maine politics running Ron Paul’s libertarian-tinged 2012 presidential campaign here. Crafts is an evangelical Republican. LePage plucked Bennett from her post as a Waterville-based reporter for WABI after he won the 2010 election as the sitting city mayor.
The June 2020 primary winner will face U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a first-term Democrat who beat Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin in a 2018 race decided by ranked-choice voting in a district that Trump, a Republican, won in 2016.
Golden has often criticized Trump, but he’s one of only eight House Democrats who hasn’t explicitly supported his party’s impeachment inquiry. He has voted against Democrats 11 percent of the time so far, according to ProPublica. That was sixth-highest among his caucus.
In a Tuesday interview, Bennett said Golden has been “low-key,” “low-energy” and “soft-spoken.” She highlighted her support of Trump, which she said dated back to when she helped organize his first 2016 appearance in Maine ahead of the Republican caucuses.
Brakey initially supported Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Crafts was a delegate for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, though both issued statements of support for Trump once he was nominated. LePage was a relatively early Trump endorser, getting behind his primary campaign in February 2016.
Bennett was the main point of contact for reporters covering LePage, who was both media-averse and prone to unpredictable and stemwinding remarks. She held the microphone for attendees at town-hall meetings and served as an interpreter of sorts.
The Waldo County native works for Falmouth-based F.O. Bailey Real Estate and was living in southern Maine before registering to vote in Bangor in late September. She said her first call when considering whether to run was to LePage, whom she called a “mentor.”
LePage teased her candidacy in early September, when he said “significant candidates” would join Brakey in the field. Bennett said she was confident she “will have his support” by the end of the primary process.
BDN writer Caitlin Andrews contributed to this report.