Trump-backed candidate to face Maine’s Golden in November elections



(The Center Square) — Republican state Rep. Austin Theriault will get a shot at unseating one of the most conservative Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the November elections in a race that could help determine control of Congress.

Theriault, a former NASCAR driver who former President Donald Trump endorsed, defeated fellow Maine House Rep. Mike Soboleski in the GOP primary in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

He will face three-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in the congressional district that has delivered an electoral vote to Trump in the last two presidential elections.

Theriault campaigned heavily on Second Amendment rights in the largely rural congressional district that was rocked by the state’s worst mass shooting in October, when a U.S. Army reservist fatally shot 18 people in Lewiston bowling alley. Republicans have accused the state’s Democrats of using the shooting to push through tough new gun control measures.

“It’s time to start putting People over Politics,” he said in a statement. “Too many Mainers have been forgotten and left behind by the political system in DC 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.”

His primary win drew praise from top Republicans, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who he is hoping to maintain the GOP’s control of the House in the November elections.

“Austin knows what it takes to win and will tirelessly fight for our shared conservative values,” Scalise posted on social media.

“Austin is a proven conservative fighter who will work to bring back Maine jobs, protect 2A rights, stand up to China, & hold the radical left accountable,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement praising his win. “We’re confident ME voters will send Austin to Congress!”

But the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of moderate Democrats, took aim at Theriault’s racing background in a social media post that mockingly compared him to a fictional French Formula One driver in the 2006 comedy “Talladega Nights.”

“Austin Theriault’s spent his whole life listening to corporate sponsors. He’d fit in great down in the swamp — which is why the swamp creatures recruited him,” the group posted in a statement in response to the GOP primary win. “He’s for fame, not for Maine!”

The 2nd District, one of Maine’s two congressional seats, is considered competitive and is being closely watched by political observers as Republicans seek to maintain control of the House.

Former Republican President Donald Trump carried the 2nd District handily in the 2020 elections, peeling off one of the state’s four electoral votes.

Golden, a Marine veteran, narrowly beat incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2018, a race ultimately decided by ranked-choice voting more than a week after the election. He has been reelected twice.

Like other states where control of Congress would be influenced, incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden’s low favorability rating has loomed large over the congressional race.

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