Phil Harriman (left) and Ethan Strimling. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

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Ethan: I see state Sen. Trey Stewart is planning to challenge U.S. Rep. Jared Golden for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Is that really the best your team can offer? A 27-year-old three-term state legislator?

Phil: Have you forgotten that Golden only had two terms of legislative service under his belt before your party’s faithful elected him?

Ethan: True, but Golden was also a decorated veteran who worked in the private sector and for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins before he ran for the state Legislature. Steward was barely able to legally drink when he first decided to run. Do you really think he has a chance?

Phil: I do. Golden won’t catch lightning in a bottle for a third time. He only won in 2018 because of the mid-term backlash against President Donald Trump (not to mention the absurdity of ranked-choice voting). And in 2020 he won by single digits against an opponent he should have trounced. With the Biden backlash in 2022, Golden is in trouble.

Ethan: Well, I think a Democrat winning twice in a district that both times went for a Republican at the top of the ticket (Shawn Moody in 2018 and Trump in 2020) is not catching lightning in a bottle. It’s smart campaigning. And remember, this time Trump won’t be on the ballot to bring all the insurrectionists out of the woodwork.

Phil: No, but Paul LePage will. And, if you don’t think CD2 will be clamoring for him after nearly four years of Gov. Janet Mills’ partisan spending spree, you will be stunned on election day.

Ethan: It sounds a lot to me like you’re saying “even someone like Trey” could beat Jared Golden? Not quite the ringing endorsement a young candidate might covet.

Phil: Au contraire. Stewart is a solid candidate, with an MBA and soon a law degree. And he is a smart legislator, who quickly rose into leadership before taking out a well known state senator. He knows how to win, and if nominated, he’ll be the next congressman from CD2.

Ethan: “If nominated”? Are you expecting more entries?

Phil: Perhaps. I think this contest may have three or four. I have heard Dale Crafts is definitely thinking about another run and Bruce Poliquin is still out there looking for his opportunity to get back in the game.

Ethan: Crafts definitely did better than anyone expected. Such a good profile, but boy was he a lackluster candidate. And Poliquin feels like such old news. Do Republicans really want to choose someone in their 60s who was already rejected?

Phil: Don’t be dissing guys in their 60s!

Ethan: If you lived and ran in CD2, I’d actually give you pretty good odds.

Phil: Aw gee, thanks. But let me ask, how are your party’s faithful feeling about Golden these days?

Ethan: To be honest, I am actually surprised at how angry people are over his vote against the stimulus. I recently spoke to two top-level Democratic Party leaders in northern Maine who were still steamed. They saw it as dumb politically ( billions of dollars coming into CD2 helping his constituents that he can’t take credit for), and even worse from a policy perspective.

Phil: Do you think he gets a challenger from the left?

Ethan: No. But it may dampen enthusiasm. And as you note, we need every northern Democrat to turn out to win that seat and to hold the Blaine House.

Phil: Somehow, I expect the prospect of LePage winning a third term will provide all the motivation your people need.

Ethan: LePage is the great uniter in that way.