LEWISTON — Standing on a Birch Street sidewalk Thursday, Jared Golden said he has no doubt he will take the oath of office Jan. 3 as the next congressman from Maine’s 2nd District.

Though a court fight continues over the constitutionality of the ranked-choice voting system that ended with his victory last month, the 36-year-old Democrat said he’s preparing to get to work rather than focusing on an election that’s over.

He’s eyeing town halls and a long listening tour across the sprawling district in the months ahead.

Even so, Golden said, he will have a staffer at the gubernatorial inauguration of Democrat Janet Mills on Jan. 2 in Augusta to secure her signature on paperwork certifying his win — just in case it proves helpful in Washington the next day.

“Check every box,” Golden said.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap already has certified Golden as the victor and notified the U.S. House clerk of the results, but Maine law requires the governor to do it. Gov. Paul LePage has refused, but he leaves office a day before the swearing-in of new House members. Mills has said she’ll sign it.

An attorney for the state, Phyllis Gardiner, told an appeals court in Boston where U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin is pursuing a federal case that Dunlap’s paperwork “provides a credential for Rep.-elect Golden to present to the House, but it does not determine as a matter of law whether he will be seated by that body.”

Gardiner said a governor’s certification isn’t necessary, either. It’s up to the House to decide, she said, pointing out that in 1956 the U.S. House agreed to seat a Maine congressman despite the absence of any certification from the governor.

Lawyers for Poliquin told the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals that Golden and Dunlap “have shifted tactics in a bald and irresponsible effort to frustrate judicial review” by engaging in “unlawful gamesmanship of the solemn judicial process by which citizens obtain review of constitutional claims.”

They said Dunlap “has taken it upon himself to usurp the governor’s legal authority” in what they call a “brazen violation of Maine law.”

Dunlap said while Poliquin is free to pursue his court case, “the law says that Golden won the election.”

“Under the rule of law, we don’t get to pick which parts of the law we’re bound to administer, and the law can’t be repealed or ignored by a venting of spleen,” he said.

Poliquin’s attorneys have asked the court to issue an injunction this week to prohibit the state from certifying the election results pending review of a claim by Poliquin and several Maine voters that the ranked-choice voting used in the Nov. 6 election violates the Constitution.

Though a federal district court judge in Bangor ripped apart their arguments in a 30-page decision last week that upheld the new voting method, Poliquin has asked the higher-level court in Boston to overturn the ruling.

Poliquin’s attorneys said the court is the proper place to decide on constitutional issues, not the House.

In their reply to briefs filed by Golden, the state and others, the GOP lawyers said they are not alleging an election irregularity but instead have “challenged the very constitutionality of Maine’s administration of this election and Maine’s voting system — a subject that is uniquely this court’s province under the Constitution.”

Golden said the hoopla over his election has had him thinking back to the lessons he learned in Little League and other sports.

In all of them, he said, the key lesson was that it’s “not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

What’s happened since Election Day, Golden said, “says a lot.”

“They can drag this out as long as they want, but we’ll stay focused” on the job voters entrusted him with, Golden said.

The bottom line is that more people voted against Poliquin than for him, Golden said, and the opposition coalesced around him.

As of midafternoon Thursday, there had been no indication the appellate judges were willing to take on the case brought by Poliquin.

Golden, who toured a health clinic serving poor Lewiston residents, said he’s busy figuring out his staff and office locations. He said his Lewiston office will be in the same spot as the one Poliquin has had.

He said he doesn’t have a firm agenda in mind for the new term.

Instead, Golden said, he plans a three- or four-month listening tour throughout the district to hear what residents think are the most pressing issues for him to consider. He said it will begin with town halls in January.

“I don’t think it’s about my priorities,” Golden said.

“I am not promising earth-shattering reform legislation,” Golden said. Instead, he said, he will probably focus on tweaking existing laws to make them work better.

“We’re taking a very calm approach,” Golden said.

One of the few issues he said he’s pretty sure he will work on is beefing up help for dealing with lead paint problems, a serious concern in Lewiston and for most of the towns in his district where homes tend to be old.

Touring the B Street Health Center, Golden listened as Dr. Megan Brewer and half a dozen health care administrators told him about the concerns they’re experiencing as they try to help immigrants and impoverished Mainers stay healthy.

All of them welcomed the Medicaid expansion that Mills has vowed to initiate when she takes office, something that should mean few Androscoggin County residents will go without some form of health care insurance.

But there are many issues on which providers need more assistance, they said, including better access to prescription drugs, higher reimbursements for dental and vision care, and more ways to attract new health care professionals to come to rural Maine.

Golden said there is “a long path ahead” for reform in health care, but “the doors will be open in the budget” in ways they haven’t been during the past eight years with the Republicans in control of the House.

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Dr. Megan Brewer gives U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden a tour of the B Street Health Center in Lewiston on Thursday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden, second from left, listens as Dr. Megan Brewer talks about the obstacles she faces daily as she tries to treat patients at the B Street Health Center in Lewiston on Thursday. The health center is in a poverty-stricken area of downtown Lewiston. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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