LEWISTON — On a sunny morning at the corner of Kennedy Park on Thursday, state Rep. Jared Golden formally declared his intention to run for Congress in a short speech and then hopped into the shotgun seat of a green GMC Sierra pickup truck to head north to faraway Eagle Lake.

Golden, 35, said he plans a four-day whirlwind trip through the sprawling 2nd District that will kick off a “Jobs for Jared” effort that will have the candidate doing everything from heading into the woods with lumberjacks to hauling lobster traps Down East.

But defeating two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a district the GOP dominated in last year’s election is bound to be the toughest job ahead for the Marine Corps veteran who served combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Poliquin’s campaign welcomed him to the race with a statement from consultant Brent Littlefield that admitted “young Jared Golden looks good on the surface, but diving deeper you find an extreme Augusta liberal politician outside of the mainstream.”

Littlefield, who is a campaign adviser for Poliquin, said Golden “consistently voted against needed welfare reforms which are important to the Lewiston and Auburn area” and supported “illegal immigration through protection of sanctuary cities” as well as “a socialist health care system which will add layers of bureaucracy for patients.”

He pointed out that Golden got a D rating from the National Rifle Association, whose pro-gun agenda is popular in the heavily rural district.

Golden dismissed Littlefield’s words as “boilerplate talking points,” adding that immigration has spurred growth in Lewiston. He said, too, that Maine has no sanctuary cities.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage called Golden’s comments “simply out-of-touch and not true. “

“Maine has experienced job growth and under Republican leadership we have our lowest unemployment level since World War II,” Savage said. He credited Poliquin with leading the fight “against unfair trade deals harming Maine jobs, even opposing the leaders in his own party when needed. “

Golden, a two-term lawmaker who serves as the Democratic whip in the House, said that Poliquin’s support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have cost thousands of Mainers their insurance and risked many jobs in the health care field.

He said the incumbent, who defeated Democrat Emily Cain to win office in 2014 and then beat her again in 2016 to keep the job, has shown repeatedly that he toes the Republican line instead of doing what’s best for Mainers.

Golden said that Poliquin is part of a GOP majority that hasn’t managed to pass any significant legislation in the eight months it’s controlled both Congress and the White House.

Though Poliquin talks about jobs often, Golden said he hasn’t delivered.

“When is he going to bring manufacturing jobs back to Maine?” Golden asked.

He said that as he travels through “the small towns on back roads” of the district, he will tell prospective voters, “I’ll have your back.”

After bad trade deals and hard times, Golden said, “Our jobs aren’t going, they’re gone.”

He vowed to do everything possible to help get them back, one small business at a time if necessary.

Golden also pointed out that it’s been a long time since Lewiston, the largest city in the district, has had a strong contender for Congress. He said the city is a key to the economic success of the entire state.

Golden has four challengers for his party’s nomination. A primary is likely next June. The general election is in November 2018.

Jared Golden announces his run Thursday morning for the Democratic nomination for Maine 2nd Congressional District at the edge of Kennedy Park in Lewiston.

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