John Hiatt is seen during a Penobscot County commissioners meeting in Bangor on Dec. 4, 2018. Hiatt, who also serves on the Bangor School Committee, on Monday became the fourth Republican to file to run for the 2nd Congressional District in 2020. Credit: Gabor Degre

AUGUSTA, Maine — Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt became the fourth Republican to file for his party’s 2020 primary in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District on Monday, saying he’s a “proud Republican” and underdog irked by his party’s embrace of President Donald Trump.

Hiatt, 36, beat a Democratic incumbent to win his county seat in the 2018 election in which he also won a seat on the Bangor School Committee. He is one of the first Maine officeholders to be outspoken about living with autism. The nationally targeted 2nd District race is a big step up.

He joins a field featuring three more established candidates — former state Sen. Eric Brakey, former Rep. Dale Crafts and Adrienne Bennett, a former spokesperson for Gov. Paul LePage.

They have raced to embrace Trump in a district he won in 2016 while hitting freshman U.S. Rep. Jared Golden after his October vote to endorse fellow Democrats’ outline for the process of impeaching the president. But Hiatt is doing it differently and notes that he’s an underdog.

He said he is a “proud Republican” who is loyal to the party and a Catholic who holds anti-abortion and fiscally conservative views. He said he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 after the release of 2005 audio of Trump boasting about being able to grab women by the crotch as a “moral stand.”

Hiatt also said he supports health care for all and thinks it is “crazy” that someone can purchase guns in private sales without background checks. He said he has a goal to “bring respect back” to the party and show that “not all Republicans are alike.”

“Everybody is so quick to embrace someone else’s idea instead of having their own,” Hiatt said. “I wonder how far I’ll get, but I think it’s important to try to put myself out there as a voice of reason to try to unite all factions of the party.”

Hiatt said he doesn’t consider himself an “anti-Trump person,” but someone who is more “neutral.” He called Golden a person of “great integrity” and that he would run an issues-driven campaign if he wins the nomination without attacking the incumbent.

It’s unclear whether there is a lane for a Republican who is more skeptical of Trump than most. The president’s approval rating among Republicans nationally has hovered around 90 percent for most of 2018 and 2019, according to Gallup.

The other candidates also have a head start on Hiatt, who conceded he’ll begin with “no money” after spending only pennies per vote to win his county seat. Brakey filed in July, while Crafts won the backing of former Gov. Paul LePage when he kicked off his run in October. Bennett also filed to run in October.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...