Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine's 2nd District, speaks to a supporter on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at the State House in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

MADISON, Maine — U.S. Rep. Jared Golden said Friday the “sinister kind of paranoia” from some members of his own party about the No Labels political movement is “preemptive.”

No Labels, an organization promoting centrist politics that has mostly worked behind the scenes, has taken a more public role ahead of the 2024 campaign by saying it will put up a third-party candidate if it is clear President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are going to be the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively.

It held its first town hall Monday in New Hampshire, featuring Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate West Virginia Democrat, and former Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah. Manchin, who has frequently bucked his own party to vote with Republicans on an array of issues, told NBC News he will decide next year on whether to make a third-party presidential bid.

Democrats and some Republicans are worried No Labels could siphon votes from Biden against Trump, who is still a massive favorite to win the Republican nod despite criminal charges. But Golden, a centrist Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, said that concern is unwarranted at this point, saying the group so far is injecting “a positive message” into presidential politics.

“So all the heartache and all like the sinister kind of paranoia about what they’re up to seems to me, at least, a little preemptive,” Golden said in an interview Friday at the site of a new wood fiber insulation mill in Madison.

No Labels has lauded Golden for being part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress over the years. It has also praised Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a leading centrist. Golden said Manchin is “a straightforward guy” who should thus be taken at his word when he says he does not yet know if he’ll run for president or again for Senate in 2024.

Golden said there is little “not to like” in the “Common Sense” policy plan that No Labels released this week. While there are some specific policy suggestions, it is built more around broad-brush statements that many could easily agree with, including that Congress should “take action to get health-care costs under control” to improve quality and public debt.

No Labels drew attention in Maine earlier this year due to Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, sending a cease-and-desist letter to the group over petition tactics she said could confuse voters.

Bellows warned No Labels that many voters expressed dismay upon learning they enrolled in the group after signing a petition to qualify No Labels as a party for the first time ahead of the 2024 election. New political parties must enroll 5,000 voters by Jan. 2 to qualify for the 2024 primary in Maine.

Golden’s comments about No Labels intersected with his comments at the mill event. While emphasizing the economic benefits for Mainers, Golden said he was called a “fascist” for voting this month with Republicans on a national defense bill that includes provisions to limit abortion access, Pentagon diversity initiatives and health care for transgender military personnel.

“I sometimes get asked … ‘Why on earth would you ever be a Democrat?’” Golden told the crowd. “Other times, it’s a little bit more like this: ‘Are you sure you’re a Democrat?’”

Billy Kobin is a politics reporter who joined the Bangor Daily News in 2023. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked at The Indianapolis Star and The Courier Journal (Louisville, Ky.) after graduating...