Democrats held on to a swing district in Maine, as two-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden beat back a challenge from a former congressman via ranked choice voting for the second time in four years.
Golden won reelection via the ranked round, Maine's secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, said Wednesday. He defeated Republican Bruce Poliquin, who held the seat from 2014 to 2018.
Golden had entered the ranked round trailing in 2018, but this election he began the instant runoff with a lead over Poliquin and independent candidate Tiffany Bond.
During the ranked round, votes for third-place finisher Bond were redistributed to the second choices of those who voted for her. Bond was also the third-place finisher in 2018.
State police were deployed around the district to retrieve ballots and memory devices before this year's ranked tabulation. The retrieval schedule was not made public, but workers for the state were able to start the painstaking vote verification process on Monday. The ranked tabulation then took place Wednesday.
Golden had declared victory in the race last week, and treated the ranked round as a formality this time. He said before the count began that his appeal in rural Maine helped carry him to victory.
"There's a number of towns we've consistently outperformed the party, outperformed the top of the ticket," Golden said. "We've held onto those towns when some Democrats who used to represent them have lost."
Golden is a Marine Corps veteran who has occasionally deviated from Democratic leadership on major issues, including President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness plan, which he has opposed. Poliquin is a former investment manager and served two years as Maine's state treasurer.
During the race, Poliquin tried to portray Golden as too liberal for the district. He has voiced opposition to ranked choice voting in the past and filed a lawsuit, later withdrawn, against the method in 2018.
Democrats should make changes such as cutting back on wasteful spending and working to reduce fuel prices, Poliquin said in a Facebook post before the results were announced.
"Biden, Pelosi, Golden and the Democrats should put politics aside and use some common sense to do what's right while they wield all the authority," Poliquin wrote. "Maine seniors and families are hurting and winter is just around the corner."
The politically mixed and geographically vast district is one of two in Maine and includes the state's second- and third-largest cities, Lewiston and Bangor. It is mostly made up of rural areas in northern and western Maine and the state's Down East coastline.
The district handed an electoral vote to former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. Trump performed even better there in 2020 than in his first election, but Golden held on to the seat that year.
Bond, an attorney, said she felt it was significant that the voters who picked her first ultimately decided the election.
"I'm encouraged that the fate of Maine's 2nd Congressional District is going to be decided by voters that put candidate quality over the millions wasted on this election," Bond said. "I hope in future years it's the majority of us that take away the power to buy our elections."
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