During the last two debates in the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Dale Crafts sought to portray U.S. Rep. Jared Golden as someone out of touch with his often conservative, mostly rural constituents.

During Thursday’s Maine Public debate in Augusta, Crafts, a Lisbon businessman, lumped Golden in with “the liberal left” that he said “wants to take this country down to socialism.”

Screenshot of Republican challenger Dale Crafts at the Maine Public 2nd District congressional debate on Thursday in Augusta.

The first-term Democrat from Lewiston dismissed the notion as “just a nationalized talking point” that bore no relation to reality or his positions.

Golden and Crafts, the only two candidates in the Nov. 3 congressional race in the district, also faced off Wednesday during a debate on Portland’s WMTW.

In that showdown in Portland, Crafts accused Golden of being a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, two lawmakers frequently targeted by the GOP.

“The 2nd District of Maine is not San Francisco,” Crafts said during Wednesday’s debate. He told Golden “you’ve got to own” your support for their positions.

Golden pointed out that he voted against Pelosi as speaker and will do the same in January. Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most liberal Democrats in the House, last year assailed Golden and some other swing district members for refusing to vote in favor of expanded background checks on gun purchasers.

“My constituents know who I am,” Golden said.

Golden picked up a key endorsement Thursday for the Nov. 3 election when U.S. Sen. Angus King, a second-term Maine independent, said in a prepared statement that he’s seen how Golden works hard “to get the right answer” on issues rather than the political one.

Screen shot of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden at Maine Public’s 2nd District congressional debate Thursday in Augusta.

“If you were going to design an ideal member of Congress for Maine’s 2nd District, you’d want someone who’s smart and understands the issues, who listens to his constituents, who gets things done, and who is closely connected to the communities he represents,” King said. “I’ve just described Jared Golden.”

Crafts, though, has the backing President Donald Trump and former Gov. Paul LePage, who recorded a phone message for him that Republicans are spreading around the district to try to boost GOP turnout.

While Crafts and Golden each said that dealing with COVID-19 is a serious issue, they took somewhat different approaches to it.

Crafts said there needs to be more balance between closing things down and keeping things open despite some risk.

“We have got to get this economy going,” he said. “We can’t make this shutdown worse than this pandemic.”

Golden said the nation needs to invest in vaccine development, production and distribution so that things can ease up. Focusing on preventative measures is required, he said, “as we all work together to get through this.”

Both men said it’s time for Congress to cut a bipartisan stimulus deal to help people and businesses get through the pandemic.

“Both sides need to come together. This is about the American people surviving,” Crafts said.

On Social Security, which faces a funding crunch starting in about 15 years, Golden said he supports putting a tax on incomes over $400,000 annually to fill the looming hole. “The revenue side is, I think, important,” he said.

“The Democrats, all they want to do is tax the rich more,” Crafts responded. “The answer is growing the economy.”

The two men also differed on whether to support statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Crafts opposed both. Golden supported both.

Crafts expressed backing for Trump’s revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Golden dismissed it as “a bad deal” that won’t stop the outsourcing of American jobs to Mexico.”

Golden said that when Trump, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all support something, as they did with the trade deal, that “ought to make your hair stand up.”

Screenshot of the Maine 2nd Congressional District debate on WMTW in Portland on Wednesday with Moderator Steve Bottari, center.

Golden criticized the rush to approve a new Supreme Court justice before Election Day while Crafts endorsed the Republican effort in the Senate to approve Trump’s choice next week, a move that U.S. Sen. Susan Collinsm R-Maine, opposes.

Crafts and Golden each supported more steps to get money out of politics and make it more transparent who’s spending on political advertising. They also each backed use of the death penalty in some circumstances.

Both candidates said they want to bring a more cooperative spirit to Capitol Hill.

A screenshot showing the Maine Public 2nd Congressional District debate Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center, with the candidates 16 feet apart and everyone socially distanced.

Golden said the Problem Solvers’ Caucus in the House, which has members from both parties, is trying to set politics aside to deal with the issues. But when it came up with a COVID-19 relief measure, he said, legislative leaders “tried to put a dagger” in it instead of embracing the opportunity to advance a bill that could pass both the House and Senate.

“I’ve seen how broken our politics are,” Golden said. “Things in Washington are even more broken than we imagined.”

“There’s so much divide in Washington,” Crafts said. “We need fresh blood down there.”

Though Crafts claims credit for a 2011 state tax cut in his advertising, he admitted during Wednesday’s debate that he voted against the budget that included it because he thought it included too much spending. “I had to stick to my principles,” he said.

In a discussion of health care, Golden said he had supported Medicare-For-All in the past but realized during the past couple of years that it is “a direction we shouldn’t be moving” because it would crimp private insurance. He said fixing problems with the Affordable Care Act is a better option.

Crafts said he would throw out Obamacare but retain protection for preexisting conditions, something that is only guaranteed in federal law by the ACA, which Trump is asking the Supreme Court to abolish in a case it will hear next month. Trump has never offered an alternative to the ACA.

Golden won the district two years ago by unseating two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin in one of America’s closest races. This year, Golden is well ahead in the polls and has raised substantially more campaign funds in the two-person contest than Crafts.

Maine Public’s Jennifer Rooks introduced the candidates and the questioners, Maine Public’s senior political correspondent Mal Leary and chief political correspondent Steve Mistler.


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