The first decision facing Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in his quest to retain his 2nd District congressional seat is whether to seek a recount.

Poliquin, who finished second in the ranked-choice race, must ask for a recount Monday if he wants one. He did not respond Friday to a question about his decision.

If Poliquin requests one, his campaign would be on the hook for the entire cost of the multi-week process of counting the almost 290,000 ballots again unless it results in a reversal of the initial outcome that declared Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston the victor.

After factoring in ranked-choice votes, Golden got 50.53 percent of the total vote compared to Poliquin’s 49.47 percent — a tad shy of the 1 percent difference he needed to seek a free recount.

Poliquin has another option for potentially retaining his seat despite his loss at the polls.

He has filed a federal lawsuit in Bangor that calls for a judge to declare unconstitutional the ranked-choice voting system adopted in Maine for primaries and congressional elections.

District Court Judge Lance Walker denied the congressman’s request to stop the counting and order Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to rely only on the first-round results to declare Poliquin the winner. His ruling on the proposed order provided little comfort for the GOP in its quest to have the new voting method thrown out.

But Poliquin’s lawyers are slated to be back in district court in Bangor on Dec. 5 to make their case in more detail. Attorneys for the state, Golden and independent Tiffany Bond are expected to amplify their arguments in opposition.

It isn’t clear, however, that Poliquin will press forward with this federal case given Walker’s preliminary ruling.

A recount doesn’t offer much hope, either.

Recounts rarely lead to a different outcome unless there is a serious mistake in the count, something that’s unlikely given that the secretary of state’s office has already eyeballed many of the ballots directly as part of its count of ranked-choice voting ballots.

Most of the time, officials said, during the recount the numbers change only a little when ballots are checked more carefully because some are marked in odd ways that machines can’t read but people can agree on what a voter meant.

If there is a recount, representatives from Poliquin’s campaign and Golden’s campaign would be on hand to watch the count directly and raise questions if they see something they think is amiss.

Golden, meanwhile, is preparing to head to Capitol Hill next week for an orientation session that will help him get an office, start hiring staff and otherwise prepare to take office Jan. 3 when the next session of Congress gets underway.

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U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin claiming victory at an Augusta press conference after first-round voting results in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race had him in the lead. His win vanished, however, when the secretary of state’s office finished the count last week. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)