Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, a Democrat, filed papers Wednesday to run in 2016 for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maine’s 2nd District.

The move sets up a primary contest with Emily Cain, who lost to U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, in 2014 after the seat was controlled by Democrats for 20 years. Poliquin is now one of national Democrats’ top targets, and they’re already backing Cain in 2016, which could make Baldacci an underdog.

But the 50-year-old lawyer and his famous name could hinder Cain, a former state senator from Orono, and test Democratic loyalties in and around Bangor, where family members — including his older brother, former congressman and Gov. John Baldacci — honed their political skills while busing tables and serving spaghetti at their Italian restaurant.

Baldacci has been publicly considering a run since January. He filed with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday and later that night launched a website with a formal announcement.

He didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

In his announcement online, Baldacci touts himself as a “life-long Mainer” while taking veiled shots at Poliquin and Cain, saying he is “not a Wall Street Republican or a Washington Democrat.”

“I’m a small business owner and City Councilman who still needs to work to provide for my family as well as honor the commitments I have to the people of the city of Bangor,” he writes.

In a statement, Cain spokeswoman Sarah Russell said Cain welcomes Baldacci to the race, but she “remains focused on defeating Congressman Poliquin and fighting for greater opportunities for Mainers” in the district.

Poliquin adviser Brent Littlefield said the campaign might comment after Baldacci acknowledges a run.

However, in a June statement, Baldacci said 2nd District voters are looking for “strong and positive leadership” that’s focused on economic issues, including protecting Social Security and Medicare, raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and promoting affordable health care.

At the city level, Baldacci has been most focused on the minimum-wage issue lately. In February, he proposed raising Bangor’s minimum wage from the state-set $7.50 per hour to $9.75 by 2018. However, that plan didn’t get majority support from city councilors at a meeting on Monday, so Baldacci pulled it from consideration before a vote. It could be taken up later this year.

It’s unclear how Cain and Baldacci will diverge from one another in the primary. Cain campaigned on raising the minimum wage in 2014, both have been open to a proposal to create a national park in Maine’s North Woods, and their likely bases of support overlap in the Bangor area.

While Baldacci has a well-known name, he starts the race with a key disadvantage: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm, is fully behind Cain.

Last month she attended a wine-reception fundraiser in Washington, D.C., with heavy-hitting House Democrats on the guest list, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, and Ben Ray Lujan, of New Mexico, the DCCC chairman. But when asked about Cain’s party support in June, Baldacci said, “Washington insiders aren’t going to decide this election. The people of Maine are.”

Cain announced for the 2016 race in March, but she has lagged behind Poliquin in fundraising so far. He raised more than $1 million in the first six months of 2015 to Cain’s $288,000.

Still, she probably is better known in the district than Baldacci, who hasn’t held office outside of his home city. He considered running for the 2nd District seat in 2014, but he announced that he wouldn’t run in late 2013, saying his first obligation was to his law practice.

“I very much would like to serve Maine in Congress, and it would be an honor and a privilege at some point to do just that,” he said then.

Michael Shepherd — 213-0182

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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