Surrounded by supporters at Rolly’s Diner in Auburn., Republican Eric Brakey formerly declares his intention Tuesday afternoon to challenge U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat, in next year’s election for Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Last year, Jared Golden squeaked to victory over 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin to grab the only GOP-held congressional seat in New England.

Republican Eric Brakey is looking to take it back from Golden next year.

Speaking Tuesday at Rolly’s Diner in Auburn, which he called “a New Auburn icon,” the former state senator said he is running for Congress because he is unhappy with what he sees as the heavy hand of the federal government.

“I believe in a free Maine and a free America — and that means Washington D.C., needs to mind its own business: Get out of our jobs, out of our health care, out of our gun closets and out of Afghanistan,” Brakey said.

He said he has raised $200,000 for his race, collecting the final $750 to reach that total from supporters who came to hear him speak. Golden had raised nearly $600,000 by the end of June.

Brakey, 31, faces a possible GOP primary in June against likely challenger Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for former Gov. Paul LePage. She said Tuesday she has made a decision on the race — and sounded like a near-certain contender.

Brakey ran for the U.S. Senate last year against incumbent Angus King, an independent.

In a three-way race that included Democrat Zak Ringelstein, Brakey garnered 35% of the vote statewide. But he ran stronger in the rural 2nd District, where his libertarian philosophy has more appeal.

As a state legislator, Brakey is known best for sponsoring a 2015 law repealing the state’s concealed-handgun permit requirement. He also urged less spending, lower taxes and a less intrusive government.

He said he came to realize that “no matter how hard we work here in Maine, we will always be fighting each other over scraps at the table, unless we deal with the bigger problem: Our abusive relationship with Washington, D.C.”

Brakey is eager to rein in the Federal Reserve, restrict the power of bureaucrats to make regulations, stop sending troops overseas and shatter a health care industry he says has gotten in the way of the traditional doctor-patient relationship.

Nobody’s ever accused Brakey of inaction. He is a politician with a plethora of promises that he pursues vigorously.

Surrounded by supporters at Rolly’s Diner in Auburn., Republican Eric Brakey formerly declares his intention Tuesday afternoon to challenge U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat, in next year’s election for Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I’ve never understood the politicians who hold office just for the point of holding office,” he said. “I didn’t run to sit on my hands, collect a paycheck and do just enough to win re-election. I ran to fight for the freedoms and paychecks of Maine people.”

Brakey insisted politicians should “stand up for our soldiers” by listening to them.

“Today, huge majorities of American veterans say we should have never gone” to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks “and it’s time to come home.”

He said concern the United States could be “drawn into new disastrous Middle Eastern wars” is justified as leaders in Washington eye “new regime change wars in Syria and Iran.”

“From Congress we only have silence and distraction,” Brakey said, “as they are too timid to end the war in Afghanistan and too perplexed to offer a reason why our men and women are still dying over there.”

“We owe our soldiers better than this,” he said, promising he would “not rest until all our troops are safely home and every promise made to them is fulfilled.”

Brakey pointed out he took office in Augusta at the same time as Golden, following the 2014 election. They each served in the Legislature for the next two terms.

In that time, Brakey said, he built bipartisan coalitions to reform welfare, allow terminally ill Mainers to try potentially lifesaving medication and “restore our gun rights” by allowing concealed carry without a permit.

While he got things done, Brakey said, Golden “was busy playing party politics, whipping Democrat votes against our freedoms and paychecks and voting against every one of those initiatives that I fought for.”

In response, Nick Zeller, Golden’s press secretary, said, “Mainers are tired of the never-ending partisan campaign cycle.”

He said Golden “is focused on doing his job. He’s out in the 2nd District talking to Mainers and working on the issues that matter most to them, like protecting good-paying Maine jobs, improving services for our veterans and making health care more affordable by lowering drug prices and defending protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”

Brakey, who served as GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul’s state director for Maine in 2012, won a state Senate seat in 2014 at age 26. He easily won re-election two years later, but gave up the position when he opted to take on King.

Brakey is an Ohio native who earned his degree from Ohio University. He worked as an actor briefly after graduation before moving to Maine, where his family has deep roots, when he took the position directing Paul’s campaign in the Pine Tree State seven years ago.

The general election will take place in November 2020 at the same time Americans go to the polls to choose a president.


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