In this Wednesday, May 6, 2020, photo, lobster boats sit idle in Stonington. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s campaign swung at Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District on Tuesday for a past donation from the head of a group that added lobster to a “red list” and drew condemnation from across Maine’s political spectrum.

Essential background: Golden, the two-term Democrat, got a donation of just under $700 from Julie Packard, the CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in 2020.

The California aquarium runs a “Seafood Watch” list of species to avoid. It drew heavy criticism recently when it added the lobster to that list, citing risks to the endangered right whale that are prompting a showdown between the federal government and state and industry officials.

The challenge: Poliquin spokesperson Roy Mathews asked whether Golden would “return Seafood Watch’s campaign contributions” or if he will “continue to accept money from California activists” that want to harm the lobster industry.

What’s underneath it: The race between Golden and Poliquin, which also features independent Tiffany Bond, is one of the biggest House races in the country. This attack is part of a 2022 Republicans campaign theme of using ties between Democrats and environmental groups to try to elucidate differences on lobster policy.

But politicians here have been generally united. For example, the entire congressional delegation plus Democratic Gov. Janet Mills hammered the listing in a letter this month, calling it a “baseless smear” of the industry.”

Poliquin is not alone. Former Gov. Paul LePage, the Republican running against Mills, has said if he was elected, he would sue President Joe Biden over lobster rules. But those rules were developing in the federal bureaucracy under former President Donald Trump. The state is involved in a lobster industry lawsuit against the Biden administration.

The response: Golden will not return the money. His strategist, Bobby Reynolds, said Packard must be “pretty disappointed” if she thought her donation could buy the congressman’s support, calling Golden “the staunchest defender of the fishery in Congress.”

“If Bruce Poliquin thinks thumbing through [campaign finance] reports is the best he can do to support Maine’s lobster industry, that should tell Mainers all they need to know about what kind of congressman he’d be,” Reynolds said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the first name of the California aquarium’s CEO.

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...