New race ratings show top House battleground remains in Maine

Democrat Jared Golden is still defending seat that backed Trump

Maine Rep. Jared Golden remains one of the most vulnerable House members in 2022.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Maine Rep. Jared Golden remains one of the most vulnerable House members in 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 14, 2021 at 5:30am

ANALYSIS — Even though Maine has just two congressional districts, it will be a key state to watch in the 2022 fight for the House majority. 

Compared to other states with divisive or convoluted redistricting processes, Maine’s was uneventful. And with just two districts and minimal population shifts over the last decade, there wasn’t a lot to be done. 

Maine will send at least one Democrat back to Washington after the 2022 midterm elections, considering the strong Democratic pull of the 1st District. But Democratic Rep. Jared Golden’s prospects for reelection are decidedly tougher in the competitive 2nd District. And that seat is likely to be up for grabs in the 2024 and 2028 presidential elections because of how Maine allocates its Electoral College votes. 

Maine’s 1st (Chellie Pingree, D)

The 1st District, which includes Portland, is the southern, more compact seat. It lost Augusta, the state capital, in redistricting to the 2nd District to compensate for population changes, but it remains a Democratic stronghold. Under the new map, Joe Biden would have carried the seat by nearly 23 points last fall, according to calculations by Jacob Rubashkin of Inside Elections. Pingree, who was first elected in 2008, was reelected by 24 points in 2020. Retired Navy SEAL Ed Thelander has filed to run against her this cycle, but the seat is not a GOP takeover target. Initial rating: Solid Democratic

Maine’s 2nd (Jared Golden, D)

Even though the district got a little better for Golden with the inclusion of Augusta, he remains one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. Golden represents the most Trump-friendly district currently represented by a Democrat. Under the news lines, President Donald Trump would have carried the seat in 2020 by about 6 points, which is better for Golden than the 7.5-point win Trump actually got.

The district would also have backed Republican Sen. Susan Collins over Democrat Sara Gideon 58 percent to 35 percent last fall. In 2018, voters, under the new map, would have supported defeated GOP gubernatorial nominee Shawn Moody 48 percent to 46 percent, while also backing Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, by 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent.

Last cycle, Republicans abandoned their nominee, former state Rep. Dale Crafts, who ended up losing to Golden by 6 points. That won’t happen again. Former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, whom Golden defeated in 2018 even though some Republicans still don’t acknowledge the result because it was decided by Maine’s ranked-choice process, is running again. Poliquin’s strength, the competitive nature of the district and the likelihood of a good cycle for Republicans adds up to a very competitive race. Initial rating: Toss-up.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.