Golden defeats Poliquin in contested 2nd District ranked-choice count

6 years ago

AUGUSTA, Maine — Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden defeated U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a ranked-choice count in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District that finished on Thursday and is the subject of an uphill challenge in federal court by the Republican incumbent.

The result would be a historic one: As it stands, Golden, a 36-year-old Democrat from Lewiston, is the first person to defeat an incumbent in the largely rural 2nd District’s modern-era configuration as it stands after it went hard in 2016 for President Donald Trump, a Republican.

Democrats clinched a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in last week’s election, flipping the chamber from Republican control. If Golden’s victory stands, they would likely control at least 230 seats to Republicans’ 199. Five other races were still undecided as of Thursday.

The race between Golden and Poliquin was heavily nationalized and became the most expensive U.S. House election in Maine history. The candidates and outside groups spent nearly $20.6 million on the race by Election Day. More than 58 percent came from Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Poliquin outpolled Golden by roughly 2,000 votes on Election Day, winning 46.3 percent of votes to Golden’s 45.6 percent, according to unofficial results reported to the Bangor Daily News. But Maine’s ranked-choice voting system — enshrined by voters in 2016 — kicked in because neither candidate won a majority and 8 percent of voters ranked one of the two independents first.

Votes for lawyer Tiffany Bond of Portland and educator Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor were reallocated over a five-day count by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office in Augusta that ended on Thursday. Golden was declared the winner as a result of the ranked-choice counting with 50.53 percent of votes to Poliquin’s 49.47 percent.

Now the focus shifts to U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker, who on Wednesday heard arguments in Poliquin’s lawsuit against Dunlap over ranked-choice voting, which was filed on Tuesday. It claims that the method violates the U.S. Constitution and other areas of law and asks a judge to stop the ranked-choice count and declare Poliquin the winner.

About 90 minutes before the ranked ballots were to be tallied, Walker denied Poliquin’s request for a restraining order to stop the count. That cleared the way for the next round of ranked-choice voting to take place in Augusta.

A Golden victory would be another major blow to Maine Republicans and Poliquin, 65, of Oakland, who made millions in the investment management industry before turning to politics in 2010. He ran unsuccessfully for governor that year before riding into the state treasurer’s office behind Gov. Paul LePage and Republican majorities in the Legislature.

That’s gone now. Republicans lost the Blaine House to Attorney General Janet Mills last week and her election swept strong Democratic majorities into powerin both chambers of the Legislature. Democrats held the 2nd District for 20 years before Poliquin won in 2014.

The Republican beat former Democratic legislator Emily Cain then and in 2016, but he met his match in Golden. While Poliquin serves on the committeeoverseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs, Golden is a tattooed Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who hammered Poliquin on a vote to replace the Affordable Care Act with a Republican plan.

The rising star will now have to prove that he has staying power in a district that shifted from slightly Democratic-leaning to slightly Republican-leaning by party registration since 2014. Golden has said he won’t vote to install House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, as House speaker and has staked out a more moderate stance on guns than most in his party.

This story will be updated.

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