Incumbent Democratic Rep. Jared Golden (left) and former Republican state Rep. Dale Crafts. [Photo illustration by Natalie Williams | BDN]

Maine’s 2nd District set a record for the most spending in a House race in state history in 2018, but it has not been the same this time around, as freshman Rep. Jared Golden has maintained a solid lead in the polls over his Republican challenger, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, R-Lisbon.

Golden has also outpaced Crafts in fundraising all year. The latest data for candidates’ finances covers the period through Oct. 14, while outside spending figures are through Oct. 22.


Golden has vastly outraised and outspent Crafts.

The Democrat from Lewiston has raised nearly $5 million and spent most of it, leaving him with about $327,000 million cash on hand, according to his campaign’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Crafts, a Lisbon businessman, raised nearly $500,000 during the third quarter, his best fundraising period yet, but still trails Golden significantly. He had just shy of $60,000 cash on hand as of Oct. 14.

Candidates raise money from a variety of different sources.

Political campaigns raise money through two basic sources: individual donors and political action committees, also known as PACs. Campaigns are required to itemize contributions from donors who give more than $200, while smaller donations are reported in aggregate.

PACs are allowed to give up to $5,000 directly to each candidate in a given election cycle, though the primary and general elections count as separate cycles. PACs are generally funded by individual donors as well as contributions from other PACs.

Both Golden and Crafts have raised the majority of their campaign cash from large individual donors, though Golden has raised a greater share from small donors.

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Not all PACs are the same, though.

Using categorizations developed by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks campaign finance, we can break down PACs into four broad categories: ideological PACs, leadership PACs, labor PACs and business PACs, each of which operate slightly differently and have different goals.

Ideological PACs work to advance a particular issue or set of issues. PACs in this category include EMILY’s List, which works to elect female Democratic candidates, and No Labels, which aims to reduce partisanship.

Leadership PACs are associated with a particular politician. Many members of Congress have these PACs, which they use to support other candidates. For our purposes, funds transferred directly from one candidate’s campaign committee to another, though not technically PAC money, are also counted in this category.

Labor PACs advance the interests of labor unions, and are often funded by union members. Business PACs represent corporations, trade groups or other business interests. This category includes groups that are affiliated with large companies, which are sometimes referred to as corporate PACs, as well as professional associations like the American Association for Justice or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Golden has raised significantly more from PACs than Crafts. That’s typical, as incumbents are more likely to receive contributions from PACs and the Golden has raised more overall. The bulk of Golden’s PAC money comes from leadership PACs and labor PACs. The incumbent has pledged to take no corporate PAC money, while the funding he received from business PACs is largely from professional associations and agriculture trade groups.

Outside money is now flowing on both sides.

In 2018, the 2nd District saw more than $13 million in independent expenditures from super PACs and other outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This year, outside spending started later — in September for the general election, not July — and favored Golden early.

Republicans later jumped in with major spending of their own, with $1.7 million from the Congressional Leadership Fund, though the group has pulled some other scheduled ad buys in the district. One Democratic group also canceled a planned ad buy, likely due to Golden’s significant lead in polls.

Story by Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News