AUBURN — Since establishing an exploratory committee for a possible congressional race several weeks ago, former state Sen. Eric Brakey has raised more than $100,000 toward the effort.

Brakey, a Republican, said he expects “to make a final decision shortly” and to make a public announcement in September.

“An outpouring of support has convinced me that Maine people want fresh leadership in Congress to protect our constitutional freedoms and hard-earned paychecks,” he said.

Eric Brakey

If he opts to jump into the contest, which appears likely, Brakey would be the first challenger to emerge to take on first-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat.

It isn’t clear whether former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, also a Republican, plans to try to reclaim the 2nd District seat he lost when Golden defeated him last November in the nation’s first ranked-choice-voting election.

Brakey, 30, has said if he decides to enter the race, he’ll pursue the GOP’s backing even if it requires him to face off against Poliquin or others in a primary.

He said he’s had strong support already.

“We have already raised over $100,000 since announcing my exploratory committee just a few weeks ago,” he said, “and national conservative groups, dedicated to fiscal responsibility and limited government, are giving strong signs of support.”

Brakey ran for U.S. Senate in 2018 against independent incumbent Angus King, who easily won a second term. But the Republican ran stronger in the 2nd District than he did in the 1st District.

Brakey is a libertarian-minded politician who is wary of government programs and regulations. He favors cutting both taxes and spending.

In recent days, he has stated his opposition to plans to begin executing condemned federal prisoners again and denounced regulations that crimp the lobster industry in a bid to save the endangered right whale.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden

Golden has been a leading voice against the new lobstering rules, but Brakey said he would go even further.

“Should I decide to run and have the honor to represent the people of Maine in Congress, I have a message for Washington: If you want to destroy the Maine lobster Industry, it will be over my dead body,” Brakey said in a post on Twitter.

Golden said recently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying “to rush through new, misguided regulations on Maine’s lobster industry,”

“I stand with our lobstermen,” Golden said. “The regulations would likely put many lobstermen out of business, wreaking havoc on working waterfront communities up and down the state.”

During his U.S. Senate run, Brakey received some criticism for taking up issues pushed by white supremacists.

For instance, at one point he tweeted that Democrats have a strategy of “mass importation of new voters to transform our political culture,” an argument advanced by the alt-right but also picked up by a number of prominent Republicans.

Brakey and Golden have known each other for years and generally get along.