October 1, 2023

Jared Golden doesn’t look like a U.S. congressman. He doesn’t dress like a congressman, doesn’t always act like one. That’s probably why he’s so good at his job.
It also makes him a GOP strategist’s worst nightmare.
The typical go-to move of a Republican campaign seems to be an effort to portray their Democratic opponent as a rather effete out-of-touch over-educated liberal elitist, no matter who they are running against. Well, good luck with that if you’re running against Jared Golden.
Yes, even at 40 years old, after four years in Washington, D.C. and four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he still literally looks like a “Golden boy,” barely old enough to drive. But don’t let the baby face fool you.
In one of the greatest political campaign ads I’ve ever seen, launched just last month, Golden sits alone at a restaurant table breaking apart a Maine lobster with hands that have clearly known hard work. His dark short-sleeved shirt displays tattoos running up and down muscled arms as he expertly cracks the lobster’s shell, plucks out the meat and dumps the shell into a bucket.
Meanwhile, the viewer hears Golden describe how he was one of the few Democrats who bucked what he calls President Biden’s “aggressive spending agenda,” and tout “common sense reforms” such as lowering prescription drug prices and keeping health-care costs low, and opening up oil and gas production to help lower fuel costs.
“I approve this message, because Maine common sense is back on the table in Washington,” he says at the end.
Scrolling down his Facebook page — not just during campaign years but throughout his time in office — you see endless photos of Golden meeting with constituents. He typically wears an untucked flannel shirt and jeans as he chats with fishermen, loggers, small businessmen, veterans and so forth. He’s what I consider a throwback Democrat, embodying the Democratic Party of my youth, which was always seen as advocates of what we describe as the “working class” while Republicans protected the interests of the wealthy.
At times, Golden draws criticism from other Dems for not always marching in lockstep with the rest of the party. What these critics don’t understand is that the interests of residents in Maine’s northern-based 2nd District are not similar to the concerns of those in, say, tonier districts in Massachusetts or New York.
Golden knows this because he is one of them. And he has always been one of them, which you can easily glean from his compelling back story.
Golden grew up in the small town of Leeds, Maine, (less than 2,500 residents) helping out at the family business, a public working-class golf course. He spent many hours cutting weeds and raking, and has likened the chores to farmwork. He initially attended the University of Maine with the hopes of being a high-school history teacher — then the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred.
His response to 9/11 was to leave college behind and take the fight to the terrorists as a U.S. Marine. He served in the infantry in both Afghanistan and Iraq, carrying a rocket launcher and an M-16. He received a commendation for leading a patrol that helped establish a position in the city of Husaybah, according the Lewiston-Sun Journal, and was discharged as a corporal after completing his tour.
Upon his return home, Golden struggled to find his way back in civilian life, experiencing symptoms of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. For a time he worked three jobs, one of them in an Auburn pizza joint. There he met an administrator at Bates College, who encouraged him to apply at the school.
When Golden told one of his bosses he had been accepted at Bates, his boss assumed it was to fill a position as janitor, according to the 2018 Sun-Journal piece.
At one point during his college career, Golden returned to Afghanistan for a summer to work with local teens as part of a leadership program, even as the war there continued. He ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and went on to work as a staffer for Republican Sen. Susan Collins, on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
The guy who at one time wanted to teach history wound up making it. He ran for office himself, serving as the assistant majority leader in the Maine House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. House in 2018 — the first member of Congress ever elected through the ranked-choice process.
Now he’s running against the incumbent he defeated then, Bruce Poliquin. Republicans have the unenviable task of convincing voters Poliquin, a hedge-fund millionaire Harvard grad who made his fortune in New York and Chicago, is more in tune with the rural population of northern Maine than the pickup-driving Golden.
Over his past four years in Congress, Golden has demonstrated classic Maine independence. He was the one and only Democrat in the House who voted against the Build Back Better Act, expressing concerns about tax rule changes benefitting the wealthy.
He was one of just two Dems who voted against raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles, and one of just five Democrats who voted against a bill banning assault weapons. He has also never voted for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.
I don’t agree with all of Golden’s choices, but his explanations behind his decisions always seem rational and reasonable to me. I think the national Democratic Party could learn so much from his ability to connect with working-class people, who so often feel like they’ve been forgotten by those who were once considered their champions.
And a lot of Republicans should follow his example of putting his constituents and country over the interests of a political party.
D. Allan Kerr is a big-time advocate and practitioner of the casual sartorial style perfected by Rep. Golden.


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