Former state Rep. Dale Crafts announces his campaign for Maine's 2nd Congressional District at the Lisbon Rec MTM Center in Lisbon Falls on Oct. 10, 2019. Credit: Caitlin Andrews | BDN

LISBON FALLS, Maine — Former state Rep. Dale Crafts on Thursday became the third Republican to file for the race in Maine’s swing 2nd Congressional District, setting up an uncertain 2020 primary for the right to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden.

Crafts, a 60-year-old businessman from Lisbon Falls, served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives from 2008 through 2016. He wasted no time in criticizing Golden at a rollout event in his hometown, specifically citing Golden’s support from Planned Parenthood and the AFL-CIO and his low ratings with the conservative National Federation of Independent Business and the National Rifle Association.

“It’s not the way we want and deserve to be represented in Washington,” he said at the Lisbon Rec MTM Center.

Crafts’ family has deep ties to the evangelical right. His cousin, former Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, was the runner-up in the 2018 gubernatorial primary last year. Mason’s mother, Gina, won the Lisbon seat after Crafts. After she died suddenly in 2017, her husband, Rick, replaced her by winning a special election.

After Republicans took control of state government in 2010 behind the election of Gov. Paul LePage, Crafts submitted a bill that prohibited employers — including the state — from barring employees with concealed-firearm permits from keeping those weapons locked in their vehicle. It was signed by LePage.

He also co-chaired an informal prayer caucus and backed several bills that would have restricted Maine abortion laws, including one sponsored by Crafts that would have mandated parental notification before underage women have abortions.

Crafts, who has used a wheelchair since he was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1983 motorcycle crash, opposed Medicaid expansion, played up some of his similarities to President Donald Trump during his speech. He reminded the audience of his business experience and his support of legislative Republicans’ 2011 tax cut package and Trump-led 2017 tax cuts.

He also claimed support from LePage and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody. Crafts said LePage told him he would “absolutely” support him three days ago and that the two have a tight relationship dating back to 2008. LePage’s endorsement was not accompanied by a statement and he didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Crafts first said publicly he was considering a run in September. He joins former LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett and former state Sen. Eric Brakey in the Republican primary in the swing district. Bennett said Tuesday when she entered the race she was confident she would eventually win LePage’s support.

At first glance, the primary looks uncertain. Brakey, a libertarian-leaning Republican, was the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and he has a head start on his competitors. His campaign reported raising at least $315,000 by September’s end.

Bennett highlighted her long-standing support for Trump dating back to March 2016 during his primary. Crafts and Brakey were delegates for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the runner-up for the 2016 nomination, though both of the candidates indicated support for Trump after his nomination.

BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.