Jared Golden will be among the youngest members of the U.S. House of Representatives if he’s seated following his victory Thursday in a historic ranked-choice election.

Golden, 36, defeated two-term incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a race that has been closely watched ahead of and now well past Election Day, when neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the votes, forcing a runoff.

As ballots were being tallied for a runoff, Poliquin and three others filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legality of ranked-choice voting. That lawsuit is likely to be decided in December, meaning that, at least for now, Golden is a congressman-elect.

The Democrat from Lewiston has not been a household name in Maine politics for long. He was first elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 2014 and was elevated to assistant House leader in his second term.

In August 2017, he declared his intent to challenge Poliquin in the 2nd Congressional District race, but he had to win a close-fought Democratic primary against Lucas St. Clair in June.

Golden grew up the youngest of three children in Leeds, a small, rural town north of Lewiston in Androscoggin County where his family owned a golf course. He attended Leavitt Area High School and enrolled at the University of Maine-Farmington after he graduated with the thought of becoming a teacher.

But he had always considered joining the military, and quietly began talking to recruiters while in college. Shortly after the start of his second year, he dropped out and joined the Marines, surprising his parents.

“We were caught completely off-guard,” Golden’s father, Joe Golden, told the Sun Journal this year. “It just completely floored us.”

He served two tours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq.

Golden has said he struggled to re-acclimate after returning from combat in 2006. He eventually decided he wanted to go back to school and was accepted at Bates College in Lewiston, where he studied political science and graduated in 2011.

Golden hadn’t crystallized his own politics by that point and went to work for Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican. He staffed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which Collins was a member.

It was during that time, Golden has said, that he realized he was a Democrat.

So he returned home and began working for Democrats in the Maine Legislature. All that did was fuel his own interest in running. He easily won a House seat in Lewiston.

Around that same time, Golden met his future wife, Isobel Moiles, who was active in Democratic politics. She had graduated from Bates the same year he did, and with the same degree, but they weren’t friends.

They married in 2015 – the same year Isobel won a seat on the Lewiston City Council. She is now in law school.

Golden, if seated, would join the more than 90 military veterans in Congress and become just the 26th Democrat in that group, according to an analysis by the Military Times.

Golden’s win returns Maine’s 2nd Congressional District to Democratic control and also ensures that all 21 House seats in New England are held by Democrats.

Golden also would be among the youngest members of Congress.

Before Election Day, the youngest was Elise Stephanek, a 34-year-old Republican from New York. That distinction now belongs to another New Yorker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is 29.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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