LEWISTON — First-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Maine Democrat, said Wednesday he’s not going to take sides in next year’s U.S. Senate race.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, speaks at a Maine Veterans’ Home groundbreaking ceremony in April 2019 in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Golden said he respects both U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and the leading Democratic challenger, state House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Freeport Democrat.

But his rationale for steering clear of the race has less to do with his feelings about the candidates than it does with his commitment to maintaining a good working relationship with whomever wins in November 2020.

Golden said it’s important for the state that its four federal lawmakers get along with one another so they can pursue policies together to help Mainers.

Collins said Wednesday she is “very pleased” with Golden’s choice, calling it “a courageous action on his part” given the pressure the national Democratic Party is exercising on behalf of Gideon.

Collins said that she’s made it a policy since arriving in the Senate in 1997 “to never campaign against a colleague,” advice she got from former U.S. Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island.

She recalled Chafee telling her in 1997, “Susan, the Senate’s too small a place” to hit the campaign trail against any of her fellow senators. Ever since, she said, she’s only helped Republican incumbents and GOP hopefuls seeking open seats.

Golden said that in 2017, when he declared his intention to challenge U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican from the 2nd District, he accepted that he wouldn’t get assistance in his campaign from members of the delegation.

Golden said U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told him that if Poliquin won the 2018 contest, he wanted to make sure the two of them could continue to work smoothly together.

King told Golden that members from Maine did not want to work against one another, a position that Golden thought made sense.

“It takes personal relations to work together,” Golden said, so he is “not getting involved” in the heated race between his party’s hopefuls and the four-term GOP senator.

“It’s a neutral position,” Golden said, “It’s not an endorsement of anyone.”

Golden said that he’s personally seen how hard Collins works in her job — something he first witnessed as an aide on veterans’ issues for her years ago and now sees as a colleague on Capitol Hill.

But, he said, he also knows that Gideon is a hard worker and a good leader from working closely with her for four years in the Maine State House.

Golden said he didn’t agree with the common notion that every Democrat must try to unseat every Republican.

He said the “growing tribalism” of American politics isn’t helping the country and he’s not going to fall in line with the idea that he must back his party every time.

Golden said his position is that Maine’s legislators have to join in common cause no matter who wins any given election.

King, who endorsed Collins in 2014, hasn’t done so this time around. He hasn’t said what he plans.

One of Collins’ Democratic colleagues, though, has backed her re-election.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said during a C-Span interview in April, “I would go up and campaign for Susan Collins. If she wanted me to, I would campaign for Susan Collins. For America to lose somebody like Susan Collins would be an absolute shame. I feel that strongly about her.”

Another Democrat, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, told Politico recently she’s conflicted about the Collins race.

“I’m very fond of her. I consider her a friend. I trust her. I believe she’s a good senator,” Feinstein said.

In addition to Gideon, there are a few other Democratic challengers who may face off in a primary next June: Betsy Sweet of Hallowell, Bre Kidman of Saco and Jonathan Tracey of Oxford.

Collins, too, has a primary opponent for the first time, Derek Levasseur of Fairfield.


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