In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District primary, two of the three Republicans are teaming up to put political pressure on the other, Eric Brakey of Auburn.

Adrienne Bennett, left, Eric Brakey and Dale Crafts. File photos

In a race that has often seemed like a contest to see who is the biggest supporter of President Donald Trump, Adrienne Bennett of Bangor and Dale Crafts of Lisbon jointly called on Brakey, who has raised the most money in the race, to join them in calling for a potential libertarian challenger to quit his campaign for the White House.

Bennett and Crafts released a letter this week to U.S. Rep. Justin Amash from Michigan who quit the GOP rather than go along with its support for Trump, urging him to end his race.

Brakey, who has expressed admiration for Amash in the past, refused to add his name on the joint letter.

Brakey said, “Signing a letter denouncing third party candidates is do-nothing virtue signaling. What’s next? Am I going to have to sign a letter denouncing Vermin Supreme? I’m focused on defeating Jared Golden and getting Maine people back to work.”

“My opponents are overcompensating to re-invent their own liberal records,” he said. “When thousands of Maine people stood up last year to defeat ‘Red Flag’ gun confiscation and the National Popular Vote, I was leading the charge and my opponents were nowhere to be seen.”

A joint letter by congressional hopefuls Adrienne Bennett and Dale Crafts in Maine’s 2nd District called for independent Justin Amash to drop his presidential bid. Eric Brakey, the other GOP contender in the 2nd District primary, won’t sign it. Provided

Bennett, press secretary during Gov. Paul LePage’s administration, said that decision “reveals what we have known all along: Eric Brakey is a career politician who has been against President Trump and his America First agenda since day one. Now Brakey is trying to trick Maine Republicans into thinking he’s something he’s not. It won’t work.”

Crafts, a former state legislator, said Brakey should put aside the misgivings he’s had in the past with Trump, sign the letter “and work alongside the Republican Party in full support of President Trump.”

Rank-and-file Republicans in the sprawling, largely rural district carried by Trump in 2016 will decide July 14 which of the three they want to represent the GOP in the November general election against U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a first-term Democrat from Lewiston.

Political experts generally rate the race as a toss-up, though Golden has a big fundraising advantage and doesn’t have to worry about a primary.

The impact of Amash’s long shot bid for the presidency is unclear. Some worry it will siphon votes away from Trump while others fret it could hurt Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden instead.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash Submitted photo

Bennett and Crafts told Amash in the letter they each signed that Trump’s reelection “is critical to our prosperity and our security” and insisted that Amash’s opposition to him “insults the American people and the institution of the presidency.”

Amash quit the GOP last summer, claiming in a July 4, 2019 op-ed in The Washington Post that “the two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost.”

Trump quickly denounced him as “a total loser” who is “one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress.”

Amash, who backed Trump’s impeachment, told Politico this spring that the Republican Party had abandoned its principles and become a place “for nationalism and protectionism — it’s a place for Trump, basically.”

Brakey, who has longstanding ties to libertarians, asked on Twitter just a couple of weeks ago, “What really is the ideological difference between the typical establishment standard bearers of each party? What was the difference, really and truly, between Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton and John McCain/Mitt Romney?”

He also said, though, that Trump “is so refreshing because he’s clearly different. He doesn’t follow the same scripts. He does things his own way.”

Last week, after questions were first raised about Amash, Brakey declared that either Democrat Joe Biden or Trump would win November.

“My vote is for Donald Trump,” said Brakey, who served two terms in the state Senate before running unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2018.

Bennett, though, is pressing for more than rote support for the president from Brakey.

She asked why won’t Brakey denounce Amash’s challenge to Trump?

“Does he actually support President Trump or does he secretly yearn for President Amash?” Bennett asked on Twitter.

In their joint letter, Crafts and Bennett pointed out that Amash voted to impeach the president, asked people to trust U.S. intelligence agencies, favored free trade rather than backing Trump’s attempts to coerce China on trade and failed to endorse Trump’s policies toward Israel.

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