Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt (right) announced on Thursday morning that he has withdrawn from the Republican primary to unseat Democrat U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in November 2020 and is endorsing Republican candidate former state Rep. Dale Crafts (left).

After just 17 days on the campaign trail, Penobscot County Treasurer John Hiatt has withdrawn from the Republican primary to unseat Democrat U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in November 2020.

Hiatt, a 36-year-old underdog candidate from Bangor who also serves on the Bangor School Committee, set himself apart by previously refusing to embrace President Trump. But on Thursday morning, he announced that he was exiting the race and endorsing one of the three other Republican candidates: former state Rep. Dale Crafts.

The two other candidates are Adrienne Bennett, a former spokesperson for Gov. Paul LePage, and former state Sen. Eric Brakey. Crafts, Bennett and Brakey are all more established figures in Maine politics who have been eager to embrace Trump. Crafts also has LePage’s endorsement.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Hiatt has said that he is a “proud Republican” with anti-abortion and fiscally conservative views, but he also voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. That vote was a “moral stand” in response to the release of 2005 audio of Trump boasting about being able to grab women by the crotch.

During his announcement Thursday morning, Hiatt said that he was so impressed by Crafts after meeting him at a Republican Party Christmas celebration in Augusta a couple weeks ago that he decided to suspend his campaign. “I know Dale is somebody I can trust,” he said. “Dale is my kind of Republican. He is compassionate, conservative, a man of faith.”

Hiatt also said that while he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, “We evolve, and I think I evolved from being an anti-Trump Republican to being a supporter of President Trump and his policies, and I think I’Il have no issue with that.”

Crafts, who attended Hiatt’s announcement, thanked him for his endorsement and reiterated his support for the president. Both Hiatt and Crafts said that they have particular respect for each other because they have each overcome a disability.

Hiatt has been outspoken about living with autism. Crafts has used a wheelchair since he was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1983 motorcycle crash.

“I felt you and I had a kindred spirit,” Crafts said of Hiatt. “I noticed that over the years with different people you meet that have disabilities, that you just have something in common that people don’t understand.”