Creating a potential three-way primary, a former NASCAR driver from Fort Kent hopes to speed past the two Republicans who have already entered the race to unseat U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in Maine’s expansive 2nd Congressional District.

Austin Theriault Photo courtesy of AT Enterprise

Austin Theriault, a 29-year-old state representative, said Monday that he decided to challenge Golden because the three-term Lewiston Democrat “fails to stand up, speak out and get the job done for a part of the state that desperately needs leadership.”

“Golden is a nice guy,” he said, “but he is still part of the problem.”

Theriault’s national reputation may put him in the driver’s seat in a GOP primary field that includes state Rep. Mike Soboleski of Phillips and Robert Cross of Dedham. Other Republicans are still eyeing the race.

Golden, a 41-year-old U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who grew up in Leeds, squeaked past incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin to win the seat in 2018. He held off Dale Crafts of Lisbon to keep it in 2020 and easily defeated Poliquin again in 2022.

Theriault may prove a tough contender for one of only a few dozen seats nationally that both political parties say is up for grabs. Though Golden has won it three times, rural voters in the biggest district east of the Mississippi River backed former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, delivering him his only electoral vote in New England.


Theriault, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2022, began racing stock cars in high school and competed “across the country at NASCAR’s most legendary tracks” before hitting the brakes on taking the wheel for NASCAR races in 2019. Since then, he has run a driver development business.

“I know what Mainers face: the working class is being priced out and attacked by people in government who hold too much power and not enough common sense,” he said in a prepared statement declaring his candidacy.

“It’s time for relentless, energetic and effective leadership for Maine at a national level,” he said.

Theriault said, “Inflation and the cost of living is out of control, the drug crisis is tearing apart rural Maine, our borders are wide open, our small towns are dying — and I will come in with the fire to confront these issues.”

“Mainers in the 2nd Congressional District need a louder, more involved voice in Washington who understands their way of life and will effectively fight for that way of life,” he said. “I will be that voice.”

Theriault said Mainers don’t need “old, failed leaders” like President Joe Biden, former U. S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — all Democrats.


“We need a new generation of leaders who will be effective in fighting back against them and standing up for you,” he told voters.

Golden had $611,000 in his campaign treasury at the end of June. At the time, Cross had $31,000.

The race, though, will likely wind up attracting millions of dollars in political action committee funds and other donations as the parties vie for control of the closely divided U.S. House.

Republicans will select their standard bearer to face Golden in a June 2024 primary. The general election is November 2024.

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