State Rep. Austin Theriault, R-Fort Kent, greets a voter, Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Fairfield, Maine. Theriault is facing State Rep. Mike Soboleski, R-Phillips, in the Republican primary for the chance to try to unseat Jared Golden, one of the most conservative Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Republicans in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District selected Austin Theriault on Tuesday as their candidate to run against U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in November’s election.

The Associated Press called the race for Theriault with about 18% of the vote reported just before 9 p.m. Theriault, of Fort Kent, was leading fellow Republican Mike Soboleski, of Phillips, with 67% of the vote, or just over 5,000 votes, compared to 2,451 votes, or 33%, for Soboleski.

“I deeply appreciate the support and want folks to know: I am running to fight for you,” Theriault said in a statement late Tuesday. “It’s time to start putting people over politics. Too many Mainers have been forgotten and left behind by the political system in D.C. and the big money on Wall Street.

“The reality is that Jared Golden and Joe Biden have failed us, and we see the results every day. The 2nd District is falling farther and farther behind and that’s not acceptable to me. That’s why I got in this race. We need to look at November as a good chance to get Maine’s 2nd District back on its feet.”

Theriault will take on Golden, a third-term Democrat from Lewiston, in November’s election.

Both Theriault and Soboleski are first-term lawmakers in the Maine House of Representatives.

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Theriault, a former NASCAR driver, had the backing of national party leaders, including House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, and was endorsed by the party’s likely presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Soboleski collected many endorsements from Maine conservatives, including the party’s 2020 congressional candidate in the sprawling district, Dale Crafts, of Lisbon.

Theriault raised about 10 times as much campaign cash as Soboleski, giving him the chance to air television commercials and encourage his supporters to go to the polls.

The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement congratulating Theriault on his primary win.

“Austin is a proven conservative fighter who will work to bring back Maine jobs, protect our Second Amendment rights, stand up to China, and hold the radical left accountable,” the statement said.

The 2nd District race is seen as the more competitive of the two U.S. House races in Maine this year.

Trump picked up an electoral vote in Golden’s district in the 2020 presidential race, and Golden defeated Republican challenger Bruce Poliquin with just 53% of the vote after a ranked choice runoff in 2022. The Cook Political Report lists this year’s race as a toss-up.

Sun Journal Staff Writer Steve Collins contributed to this report.

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