U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, has won a second term in Tuesday’s election over former state Rep. Dale Crafts, registering an impressive performance in a swing district where President Donald Trump maintained a lead.
The outcome was called at 10:06 a.m. on Wednesday by the Bangor Daily News and its national election results partner, Decision Desk HQ. With 88 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, the Democrat sat at 53.3 percent of votes to 46.7 percent for Crafts, even as Trump led Democratic nominee Joe Biden by a nearly mirroring margin in the district.
Golden performed well along the coast and in mill towns such as Jay and Rumford, areas key to his narrow 2018 victory over Republican Bruce Poliquin. He led in the polls and fundraising all season in a district that gained less attention than it did two years ago amid the din of the U.S. Senate race, which dominated the airwaves.
The Marine veteran barely campaigned in person throughout the cycle, though he outraised Crafts by more than four times during the race. His ads were largely positive, focusing on his support for unions at Bath Iron Works and support from politicians like former U.S. Sen. Bill Cohen, a moderate Republican.
“We showed that voters are hungry for a positive tone, positive leadership and civility in our politics,” Golden said in a speech in his home city of Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon.
Crafts, a businessman from Lisbon Falls, launched his campaign last October with the weighty endorsement of former Gov. Paul LePage, which helped him to an easy victory in a three-way July primary that was delayed a month due to the coronavirus.
The Republican made little attempt to appeal to swing voters. He was frequently seen at campaign events for President Donald Trump in a district the president carried by 10 points in 2016. In a poll released in early October by the Bangor Daily News, only three people backed both Crafts and Biden, the former vice president.
Crafts built his campaign on aligning himself with Trump and trying to paint Golden, who has fashioned himself as a centrist, as a reliable liberal by hammering him on his prior support for universal health care. The representative backed a bill in 2019 that would have implemented Medicare for All, but he pulled back during the campaign in favor of a public option plan.
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But health care was not a strong policy area for Crafts, who supported a vague “free market” replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Golden also fought Crafts to a near-tie on other issues key to his 2018 race. For example, the National Rifle Association endorsed Crafts and gave him an A grade on gun-rights issues, but it also gave Golden a B grade.
The outcome was in little doubt by mid-October, when the campaign arms for both parties both pulled rounds of advertising. Golden may face a difficult reelection in 2022, but he sits in waiting as a potential candidate for statewide office with a U.S. Senate seat likely opening in 2024.
Luke Wieder, a 61-year-old retired electrical lineman from Presque Isle, split his ticket in Tuesday’s election, voting for Trump, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Golden. He worried that Crafts would jeopardize health coverage and liked that the freshman congressman waged a more positive campaign.
“He seems to be for everything that I’m a firm believer in, even though he’s a Democrat,” Wieder said. “I think he’s working for health care, and I think he’s a good fellow to have.”
BDN writer David Marino Jr. contributed to this report.