AUGUSTA — Two state lawmakers from Aroostook County — one Democrat and one Republican — are the latest candidates to join what is expected to be a crowded field in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race next year.

Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Rep. Alex Willette, R-Mapleton, filed paperwork Monday to run for Congress. Their announcements came on the day that the current occupant of the seat, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, said he had raised more than $300,000 in less than three weeks for a potential gubernatorial campaign.

State Sen. Emily Cain, a Democrat from Orono, had already declared her candidacy.

Michaud has not officially said he will forgo a potential seventh term in the U.S. House to run for governor. But his stronger-than-anticipated early fundraising will likely reduce fears about his ability to compete financially in the governor’s race.

Jackson has been in the headlines of late as the target of some off-color remarks by Gov. Paul LePage. A professional logger who serves as assistant majority leader in the Senate, Jackson has clashed publicly with the Republican governor over issues such as the state budget, Medicaid expansion and some timberland firms’ use of Canadian loggers in the Maine woods.

On Monday, Jackson highlighted his policy differences with LePage without referring to the governor’s recent comments.

“Republicans in Congress have been acting just like our governor here in Maine,” Jackson said in a prepared statement. “I want to bring a dose of reality and working experience to Washington. When I talk about living wages, job opportunities, education opportunities, and health care coverage, I’m speaking from my own life experience and from the experience of hard working Mainers across the state.”

Willette is the assistant minority leader in the House, serving his second term. At just 24, he is reportedly the youngest legislative leader in the country. He works as a broker in a real estate business.

Willette announced a “Jobs NOW!” economic development campaign and pledged to focus also on protecting the Second Amendment and helping Maine’s elderly population.

“We need fresh, new leadership in Washington,” Willette said in a prepared statement. “I represent the generation of Mainers who will be forced to pay off the enormous debts now being created by the reckless politicians in Washington. Instead of increasing the size of government with wasteful spending, we need someone in Congress who will fix our economy by cutting spending and lowering taxes.”

In addition to Willette, Republicans considering jumping into the open race include: former Rep. Josh Tardy of Newport; LePage administration official and former state Sen. Richard Rosen of Bucksport; former Senate President and 2nd District candidate Kevin Raye of Orono; state Sen. Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls; and former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin of Georgetown.

“I’m looking at it very seriously,” Poliquin said Monday.

Poliquin, a wealthy businessman who ran for governor in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2012, indicated that he is considering moving to the Lewiston area to be closer to his aging parents.

Among Democrats, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci – brother of former governor and 2nd District Rep. John Baldacci – has been open about his interest. Attorney General Janet Mills of Farmington and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap of Old Town are also frequently mentioned as possible Democratic primary contenders.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

[email protected]

On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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