In this 2019 file photo, Assistant House Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, watches a vote tally in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Sen. Trey Stewart announced Thursday that he is dropping his bid to challenge U.S. Rep. Jared Golden for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District to endorse former Rep. Bruce Poliquin after both Republicans entered the race in recent weeks.

Stewart was the first major contender to throw his hat into the ring against the Democratic incumbent representing a key swing district ahead of the 2022 election. But just over a month after announcing his candidacy, the 27-year-old law student said dropping out was the “most responsible” choice after Poliquin declared his return bid in early August.

“Although I was very excited to run, and feel that I could go toe-to-toe with the incumbent, I’ve decided to withdraw from the race out of deference to my friend and mentor, Congressman Bruce Poliquin,” Stewart said in a news release.

Stewart’s withdrawal essentially sets up Poliquin for a rematch with Golden. The Republican real estate developer held the 2nd District seat for two terms before losing to Golden in 2018. One other Republican officeholder, Rep. Michael Perkins of Oakland, is still in the race, though his campaign has not gained much traction so far.

It also likely secures Stewart’s legislative district for Stewart and his party in 2022. The first-term senator took the conservative district from then Sen. Michael Carpenter, D-Houlton, a former attorney general in 2020. He promised he was “not going anywhere” on Thursday.