LEWISTON — Jared Golden is “somewhat impatient” to take office as Maine’s next 2nd District congressman.

Though he already has “a little basement apartment in some little house” that is about a 15-minute walk from his new office on Capitol Hill, Golden is not sure he will be able to take the oath of office with the other 434 members of the House on Jan. 3.

The Democrat said that opening day of a new congressional term is “a historic moment” and “it would be nice to be seated with my colleagues,” whom he is just beginning to get to know.

It is not clear that a recount of the nearly 290,000 ballots cast in 375 towns and cities last month will be completed by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s staff in Augusta in time for that to happen.

Two-term Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin called for the recount and is pursuing a federal court challenge to Maine’s ranked-choice voting system that he hopes will lead to a reversal of Golden’s 3,509-vote victory or perhaps a new election.

Golden said Sunday he does not consider either Republican effort a major worry. He is confident he will be taking office soon, but maybe not fast enough to join the rest of the incoming House on the first day of the session.

While he waits, Golden is hustling to get ready. He is hiring staff and figuring out where to place district offices that he promised will be open to the public rather than behind locked doors as Poliquin has done.

Golden, a 36-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said he plans to keep an office on Lisbon Street in Lewiston and to have one in Bangor that is fully accessible to people with disabilities, something Poliquin’s office there is not.

He is also eyeing one in either Caribou or Presque Isle, he said. He may have a fourth office as well, somewhere in western Maine or on the coast.

Golden said his new office in the Longworth building, beside the Capitol, is not quite ready.

“I don’t have the keys or access to it,” he said.

He is glad five of the nine incoming Democrats aligned with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., managed to get offices on the same floor of the same building. Two others are just one floor above, Golden said.

Having so many of the veterans elected last month nearby, he said, ought to provide “a good dynamic” for all of them as they learn the ins and outs of the House. Already, Golden said, they are talking about possible bills they could all get behind.

COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS

Golden said he has put in requests for possible committee assignments that probably will not be decided for at least a couple of weeks.

Among the panels for which he has asked House leadership to consider him are the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Golden said Ways and Means attracted him because it oversees Social Security and Medicare, which he has vowed to protect, and a perch there would give him the chance to push for increases in monthly benefits.

The education panel, Golden said, is “a great position” to target the workforce issues that face Maine with its aging population and slow growth.

On Armed Services, he said, he would have some leverage to look out for the interests of Bath Iron Works, the shipbuilding company that employs hundreds in his district.

He said the Transportation panel would allow him to try to bring more federal cash to Maine to help with a range of infrastructure issues facing the state.

Golden anticipates that he will get two committee assignments, but there are no guarantees that either of them will be on a panel he asked for. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing members, he said, including regional considerations to make sure there is a diverse group that does not include too many from New England on any one committee.

Golden, who served in the Maine House for two terms, said he has devoted considerable time to hiring decisions. He said he’s already picked a district director in Maine – though he would not provide a name yet – and is about to choose his chief of staff.

“They’re really going to be the senior staff,” Golden said, and play an important role in making sure he’s successful in representing his constituents. Ultimately, he will likely hire about 16 full-time staffers and a few part-timers.

“We’re going to put a strong emphasis on the state staff,” Golden said.

He said he’s not in a hurry to fill every slot, however, because he’s gotten advice from many that it’s better to take his time and make sure he brings the right people on board.

TRANSITION DIFFICULT

One of the issues that bothers Golden most about the delay in certifying his victory at the polls, he said, is it has made it hard to have a smooth transition between his incoming staff and Poliquin’s.

Golden said he would like to “have an orderly transition” where casework could be handed off seamlessly and problems with which Poliquin’s staff is dealing would be addressed.

Instead, he said, he has had no conversations with Poliquin.

Golden said he has talked with both of Maine’s senators and with Rep. Chellie Pingree, the 1st District Democrat who is the state’s other member of the House. He said he hopes if Poliquin’s casework is not handed over to his staff, it will be given to the offices of one of the other three so nobody is simply dropped.

“It would be unfortunate” if anyone gets lost in the shuffle, Golden said.

Golden said he has met many of his new colleagues, including Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, a 37-year-old Minnesota Democrat who is the first Somali-American to serve in Congress.

Golden said Omar has heard of Lewiston and its large Somali population and might even come visit sometime. He said he is interested in learning more about the economic opportunities in her district.

IN A ‘HOLDING PATTERN’

Golden said he has not had a chance to meet many Republicans yet, but there was an evening get-together of the eight Democrats and eight GOP members backed by With Honor, a group that sought to bring more veterans into Congress. He said that was a nice opportunity to meet some newcomers with similar backgrounds.

One of the headaches he has now, Golden said, is because he is not in office yet, he does not have access to congressional phones or the House email system. Thus, he said, it is hard for people to reach him.

He said he is determined to be responsive, but it is tough without the support systems.

“Right now, it’s a bit of a holding pattern,” Golden said, adding that he hopes people will understand and give him a little time.

“Come January, we’ll be fully accessible,” he said.

It appears likely the Maine secretary of state will certify Golden’s win no later than early January. So far, the recount is about a fifth of the way done and results have changed little.

Golden said that while he is content to wait, there are a couple of reasons it could hurt Maine if he cannot take office Jan. 3.

One problem is that he would not be able to participate in the debate on key issues that are taken up quickly, he said.

Another is his seniority. If he starts even one day later than his colleagues, Golden would have less seniority than every other newly elected member. That matters little now, but if voters re-elect him, the diminished seniority might cost him a subcommittee chair or other leadership post, making it a bit harder to help his district.

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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