U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, seen speaking to the Rotary Club of Bangor at Husson University on Aug. 16, 2022, won his third term to the U.S. House of Representatives after an instant runoff decided by ranked choice voting. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

This story will be updated.

AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District defeated former Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a Wednesday ranked-choice count after an impressive performance by the Democrat holding an area trending conservative for a third term.

Golden, a 40-year-old Marine veteran and former state lawmaker, won 53 percent of votes to 47 percent for Poliquin, a Republican. That was after independent Tiffany Bond, who won nearly 7 percent of first-round votes, was eliminated and the second choices of her voters reallocated to the party hopefuls in a rematch of their 2018 campaign also decided by ranked-choice voting.

It was a commanding victory for Golden in a 2022 election marked nationally in the weeks before the vote by polls that shifted in Republicans’ direction. The party that was widely expected to easily win the U.S. House of Representatives will now do so by just a narrow margin. In Maine, Democrats held control of Augusta behind a strong win for Gov. Janet Mills.

“I am already back to work at my office in Congress, continuing to help deliver for my constituents and provide thoughtful, independent leadership for the people of our state,” Golden, who was back in session in Washington on Wednesday, said in a statement.

The 2nd District was at the center of the national House map among the 30 or so seats that were deemed toss-ups by national pundits and the parties. The 2nd District drew nearly $28.3 million in campaign and outside spending for the most expensive race for the chamber in state history and the eighth-priciest in the nation this year, according to one analysis.

While Mills routed former Gov. Paul LePage by more than 13 percentage points, Golden’s performance is at least as impressive. His district was only one of two in the top 20 by outside spending to be won by former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Former Gov. Paul LePage (left) and former Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District listen to lobstermen speak at a rally on the Portland waterfront on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Poliquin adopted Trump’s “America First” line on immigration and tethered himself to LePage on the campaign trail, but Golden outdid the former governor in working-class communities that both won such as Jay while outperforming Mills in his home city of Lewiston.

He did it behind a party-bucking campaign that highlighted his swing votes in Congress against parts of President Joe Biden’s spending agenda, gun control measures and a progressive police overhaul. Poliquin tried to remind voters that Golden still overwhelmingly votes with his party, often repeating exact figures in stump speeches and TV ads.

Signs of Golden’s cross-party appeal were evident during the race. One police group split its endorsements between LePage and the congressman. Interests that backed Poliquin in their 2018 race stayed on the sidelines this time, including the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which gave Golden an award as the campaign wound down.

Assistant Director of Elections Heidi Peckham, center, handles sealed envelopes from towns that use tabulators for voting during the ranked choice tabulations at the Maine State Office building in Augusta, Maine, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. The tabulations are for the 2nd Congressional District. Credit: Rich Abrahamson / The Central Maine Morning Sentinel via AP

The count was conducted in north Augusta by the office of Secretary of State Shenna Bellows. It was delayed by a day due to a technical issue in which files on memory sticks containing ballot information from Bangor, Hampden and Anson would not convert to the proper format needed to run the ranked-choice count. State police retrieved all ballots from those places late Tuesday and election workers used Wednesday to tabulate them.

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Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...