Politics

Potential Self-Funder Enters Race Against Maine’s Poliquin

Lucas St. Clair fought for controversial national monument in North Woods

Six Democrats are running to take on Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin in 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic field for Maine’s 2nd District got more crowded Monday with the entrance of a potential self-funder.

Lucas St. Clair announced his candidacy Monday morning with supporters at the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket and formally kicked off the campaign at the Bangor Public Library later in the day.

Although he currently lives in Portland, St. Clair is well known among the activist community in the district for fighting for the creation of the controversial Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

St. Clair’s mother, conservationist and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, purchased nearly 100,000 acres of former timberland in the North Woods and donated it to the federal government with the goal of making it a national park. She wanted to close the area to hunting, snowmobiling and logging, which angered some local residents. 

Maine’s congressional delegation refused to introduce legislation to make it a national park. St. Clair stepped in, announcing that part of the conserved land would be open to hunting and snowmobiling. He pressed former President Barack Obama to make the land a national monument, which he did in August 2016.

“It was really about retail politics,” St. Clair said of his efforts to sell the monument idea to local residents. It was during those efforts that he first thought about running for Congress. His argument for the park was about economic revitalization. Not only would it bring tourism to the interior part of the state, St. Clair argued, but protected land would entice more “footloose entrepreneurs” to move to Maine’s 2nd District permanently. 

But the park remains controversial. St. Clair said about 35 percent of the preserved land is now open to snowmobiling and hunting — but not commercial logging. 

St. Clair was born in Dover-Foxcroft, in the 2nd District, and later lived Downeast, where he operated a restaurant in Winter Harbor. He briefly lived in Seattle with his wife. He currently lives in Portland, in the 1st District, where his wife was going to school. But he’s now moving his family into the 2nd District, to Hampden, which is just south of Bangor on the Penobscot River. 

The Maine Republican Party immediately pounced on his residency, pointing out that he’s still registered to vote in the 1st District.

“A Seattle liberal by way of Portland, Maine, is not a good fit for the people of Maine’s Second Congressional District, and Mr. St. Clair’s insensitive, out-of-touch announcement proves it,” said Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine GOP, alluding to St. Clair announcing his candidacy the day after a deadly shooting in Las Vegas.

St. Clair asked for a moment of silence before addressing his supporters Monday.

“At this point, I don’t know too many of the details or what might have been done to prevent this. But I know as a gun owner, it’s my responsibility to keep my guns locked up, safe and away from my kids, and that no responsible gun owner would want someone like the person who carried out this attack to have a weapon,” he said.  

This is not the first time residency has been a point of contention in the district. Democrats aimed similar attacks at incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who moved to Oakland, in the 2nd District, before launching his 2014 campaign. He put that home up for sale earlier this year, and is looking for another home in Oakland, according to his office. But he still owns three properties in the coastal areas of the 1st District. 

St. Clair will face at least five other Democrats in the primary. His most serious opponent is Marine veteran and state House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, who announced his campaign in August. A former committee staffer to GOP Sen. Susan Collins, Golden was seen as a top recruit for the national party. He’s been in close contact with Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who’s recruiting veterans this cycle.

St. Clair said his time in the district and experience fighting for the monument distinguishes him from the rest of the field. “I started working in a very polarizing atmosphere and was able to bring people together,” he said. 

Maine’s 2nd District was among the most expensive House races in the country last cycle, attracting over $10 million in outside spending. St. Clair’s personal wealth could be advantageous to Democrats, especially against the well-funded Poliquin. The sophomore lawmaker ended the second quarter with $1.1 million. 

“That remains to be seen,” St. Clair said when asked how much of his own money he’d spend on the race. “The only way to show that you have the political support from a whole range of constituents is to have as many small donations to the campaign as possible.”

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