In a recent ad, Jared Golden said he is “fighting Biden's failed energy policy” as he leans into arguments about costs and inflation.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine's 2nd District speaks at a news conference Tuesday at the State House in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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On Tuesday, the big fight between Maine Democrats and Republicans was over framing the gubernatorial race around the dueling issues of abortion and inflation with a week to go before Election Day.

In Portland, Republicans called a news conference to portray Gov. Janet Mills as out of touch on costs, then Mills hammered former Gov. Paul LePage on abortion rights. This theme will continue on Wednesday, with LePage holding a news conference in Hermon with former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District on heating oil costs. Mills is campaigning in York County.

Mills remains favored over LePage in the statewide race, while Poliquin is campaigning often with the former governor in his race against U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat who has a tough road to hold his conservative-leaning district. His campaign has been a unique one to date. 

A Tuesday appearance on WGAN with conservative host Matthew Gagnon underscored that. Striking a populist tone, Golden said he does not see politics as being about “left versus right, but more in the context of us versus them.”

After his appearance, a newscaster provided a statement from Poliquin saying Golden’s supporters are having “the wool pulled over their eyes” — a statement that mirrored Poliquin’s words after a police group endorsed the congressman. Poliquin and independent 2nd District candidate Tiffany Bond appeared on Gagnon’s show on Wednesday morning.

While Mills focuses on other issues and Poliquin and national Republicans hammer Golden by linking him to the unpopular President Joe Biden, Golden released a 60-second ad on Tuesday closing his campaign that leans into costs and inflation, notably saying that he is “fighting Biden’s failed energy policy, forcing him to drill more American oil to lower gas prices.”

When he says that, he is counterintuitively referencing his vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed by Biden in August. It does guarantee new drilling development in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska that Biden had been skeptical of and includes a raft of clean-energy and health care benefits for Americans.

Republicans have seized on the tax side of this measure. While there are no direct tax hikes on people making less than $400,000 per year, estimates have found that new taxes on big corporations could trickle down to lower-income people. Those analyses have ignored the benefits of the tax law, something that calls the wider tax effects into question, but Golden’s opponents have hammered him on it regardless.

After Golden voted against key parts of Biden’s spending agenda, including the American Rescue Plan Act and the Build Back Better plan, that vote has given Republicans a recent connection between Golden and Biden. On the radio, Poliquin described the struggles of people he met on the campaign trail and continued to link Golden to national Democrats.

“This is the agenda that Joe Biden, Jared Golden and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi have put us on,” Poliquin said.

Golden has been leading Poliquin in public polls and forecasters remain split on how this toss-up race is tilting. It is clear why the congressman’s campaign is different from the one run by Mills, but if things break well for the Republicans, he could find himself out of a job.

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...