WASHINGTON — For the first time in more than a half-century, a Lewiston resident took the congressional oath of office Thursday to represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As he stood in the chamber to become a member of the 116th Congress, Democrat Jared Golden, a 36-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he focused on “the big American flag behind the podium” with “In God We Trust” written on the wall beside it.

Golden said “it’s a real honor” to have the responsibility of representing the sprawling, rural district he won in November by unseating two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin.

He said he is determined not to let any of it go to his head.

“I’m just kind of a matter-of-fact person,” he said. “It’s not about me.”

Though his first vote was in opposition to the selection of California’s Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the Democrat-controlled House, Golden said he said he’s going to play his part in a team effort to address issues ranging from health care to campaign finance reform.

Along the way, though, he said he will constantly keep an eye out for “opportunity for the district” in whatever happens.

For Golden, the moment caps an unlikely rise for a Leeds native who came back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to work in a series of low-level blue-collar jobs, uncertain of his future. When the chance came to attend Bates College, he seized it and, after graduating, he wound up running for a Maine House seat that he won in 2014

He launched his race for Poliquin’s seat in the summer of 2017 and, after winning a tough primary, squeaked by the incumbent in the first federal race involving ranked-choice voting. He couldn’t be certain he would take office until the Republican dropped a legal challenge to the outcome with a Christmas Eve concession.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican who campaigned for Poliquin in Bangor, called the ousted lawmaker “a good guy” who’s going to be missed.

He said he was surprised Poliquin did not push his legal challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court, though, because it was important to find out soon whether the new voting method passes muster.

Roe said he was not worried about Poliquin.

“He’ll land on his feet,” the GOP lawmaker said.

Golden’s three colleagues from Maine — 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins — said they are confident they can work seamlessly with the newly elected Democrat. King is an independent while Collins is a Republican who once hired Golden to work for her in Washington. Pingree is a Democrat.

Collins said there are many issues where party differences do not matter much, as Maine’s delegation pushes issues important to the state.

Golden’s arrival in Washington with his wife, Izzie, had its moments.

He almost did not make it much past the airport after the Lyft driver giving him a ride to his new apartment near Capitol Hill veered onto the wrong side of a roadway divider and began heading into oncoming traffic.

It looked bad enough that Izzie Golden said she yelled in terror, but her husband remained calm, a lesson learned in combat.

They came through it fine, stopping at the new apartment that costs about four times as much as the mortgage on their house in Lewiston, the congressman said.

When he arrived for the first time at his newly opened office, Golden quietly greeted staffers who had been trying to figure out the phone system and scrounge up some things to put on bare walls and empty shelves. King brought him an old-style Maine flag in a frame. Pingree sent over some items as well.

By Thursday morning, Golden had collected the card he needs to cast votes in the House and a pin to wear on his suit to indicate he is a member of Congress, a necessity to get past the many security checkpoints.

Golden’s initiation into the House marked the first time since 1960 that someone from Lewiston has served.

Golden is the seventh Lewiston man to represent the district in the House. No women from the city have yet won federal office.

All of his predecessors were lawyers, though one of them, Nelson Dingley Jr., was known mostly as a newspaper editor. He served from 1881 until 1899, winning modest acclaim for his role in pushing through a measure named for him that kept tariffs high.

The most recent Lewiston representative before Golden took office was Frank Coffin, who was born in the city and went on to serve it for two terms in the House after his election in 1956. He ended his career as the chief judge of the federal appeals court in Boston

The four other Lewiston men who served in the House were Wallace White, Daniel McGillicuddy, William Frye and Ebenezer Herrick. Frye, who spent a decade in the House, logged another 30 years as a U.S. senator from Maine.

Auburn has had its share of representation as well, most recently when Olympia Snowe won election to the House in 1978. She served in the House until 1995 and then in the Senate until 2012.

Before her, lawyer William Hathaway served in the House for four terms and then moved up to the Senate in 1972 for a single term by defeating Maine legend Margaret Chase Smith.

Golden said he is going to get settled into his office and round up a Marine Corps flag to add to the banners beside his office door.

This weekend, he is going to hold a staff retreat in Washington, but he plans to spend time hearing from constituents by mid-January, including an open office in Lewiston on Jan. 12 where he will “throw the doors open” for people to come into the Lisbon Street location that Poliquin had kept locked.

Golden also has an office open in Caribou, and plans to have one open in Bangor within a few weeks in the federal building where former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud had one. The spot chosen by Poliquin in Bangor was not accessible for handicapped people, Golden said, so he is moving it.

[email protected]

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden sits in his new Congressional office Thursday morning while answering questions. (Nikolas Hample/Knowmadic Photography)

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden stands and votes Thursday for Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois for House speaker during the opening day of the 116th Congress, while Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California looks on in the foreground. (Nikolas Hample/Knowmadic Photography)

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in his office in Washington on Thursday morning, before being sworn in as a member of the 116th Congress. (Nikolas Hample/Knowmadic Photography)

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: