In the Marines, I learned that leadership and service is never about yourself. It’s about the people you serve and getting the job done. I came to know good and bad leaders in the military, and the very best never cared about who got credit for a unit’s success. They also refused to lay blame for failure at anyone’s feet but their own.

Imagine what Congress could do for America if those were the ethics of our leaders in Washington. That is exactly why I’m running to be your representative in Congress.

The start of my Maine story is typical of many individuals in our community. I grew up in Leeds, worked in my family’s small business, graduated from Leavitt Area High School and enrolled at the University of Maine at Farmington with plans to be a high school history teacher.

But life had a different plan for me.

When terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, I decided to leave college and enlist in the Marine Corps, where I served two combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After the Marines, I moved home to Maine and worked three jobs, nights and weekends, to make ends meet. With the support of my family and friends, I successfully navigated post-military life, something many veterans — including myself — struggle with.

With benefits I earned through my service, I enrolled at Bates College and graduated in 2011. Following graduation, I returned to Afghanistan to teach at a school before returning to Washington to work for Sen. Susan Collins on the Homeland Security Committee.

After being elected to represent Lewiston in the Legislature in 2012, I focused my work on solving real-life problems for everyday Mainers. That means passing new laws to protect kids from lead poisoning, helping veterans get jobs with the skills they learned in the military and expanding rail service to interior Maine. It’s important work that has had a positive impact on the lives of our citizens.

Over the past three months, you’ve likely seen a lot of TV ads with a lot of negative attacks, including my opponent calling me a radical. The label of radical should be reserved for the terrorists I and my fellow Marines fought on the battlefield, not political opponents. You deserve better than the divisive rhetoric you’ve been hearing, and you deserve a discussion on issues and workable solutions.

The truth is, my opponent and I simply disagree on the way to tackle some of the greatest issues facing Maine. Take health care, for example. He voted to repeal protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions. He voted to allow insurance companies to charge older Mainers more for their health care. And he voted to cut Medicaid funding by $800 billion — a cut that would have led to closures of rural hospitals and nursing homes across the state. Sen. Collins and Sen. Angus King both voted in a bipartisan manner against these things because they understood these changes would hurt Maine. My opponent broke with our two senators and voted to repeal important protections. That’s a fact, and no amount of political spin can change that.

As a member of Congress, I will work to expand access to health care and lower the cost of prescription drugs, and I will always protect important programs like Medicare and Social Security — for those of you who have paid into them for years, and for future generations. On that you have my word.

Maine has a rich tradition of sending transformative leaders to Washington — Margaret Chase-Smith, Ed Muskie, Bill Cohen, George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe. They worked for the people of Maine, and they made us proud. If elected, I will always try to live up to the examples they set. I promise I will work every day to make you proud, to listen to you, be straightforward and to work for you.

Thank you to the thousands of Mainers who have taken the time to meet with me, express your hopes and concerns and have given me a chance. I want you to know I will always appreciate your support, and I’ll be there to support you the very best that I can, always.

Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

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