U.S. Rep. Jared Golden checks out the merchandise Friday at Orphan Annie’s, an antiques shop in Auburn. Sun Journal photo by Steve Collins

Three months into his new job representing Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston has shown a willingness to break ranks from his party.

Only two Democrats in the U.S. House have voted with President Donald Trump more than Golden, according to statistics compiled by FiveThirtyEight, a polling and data-driven news outfit.

“It’s just so uncommon for people to break ranks” on either side of the political aisle, Golden said Friday as he visited a number of establishments in Auburn.

Between posing for pictures and shaking hands, Golden talked about a variety of issues during several hours of discussions with residents and a reporter, from health care to the Green New Deal.

The common thread among many was his embrace of bills and ideas that have a shot at getting approved into law. He repeatedly showed an aversion to squandering his time on idealistic measures that aren’t going to happen anytime soon.

So it might shock people that the Democrat most likely to side with Trump is a lawmaker widely touted as the champion of the party’s left wing, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

She’s voted with the president 14.3 percent of the time — more often than one of her GOP colleagues, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. Golden has lined up with Trump 9.5 percent of the time.

The only other Democrat to side with Trump more than 5 percent of the time is U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

Golden said he often doesn’t agree with Ocasio-Cortez on issues, but he sees a connection in the way they each look at politics.

“We’re both kind of anti-establishment,” he said, so it’s not surprising that they’re more apt to diverge from what House leaders prefer.

In addition, Golden said, “both of us have a real hostility to the culture of campaign finance” that is pushed so hard by party officials who want them to spend a lot of time raising money. Golden said he won’t go along with it.

The reality of Congress, he said, is that it is so partisan that it’s uncommon for anyone to break ranks from other party members.

“It’s unusual to be bold,” Golden said.

Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, is the Republican most likely to vote against Trump’s position, according to FiveThirtyEight’s ranking. She supports him 30 percent of the time, less than one Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

Maine’s other senator, independent Angus King, and its 1st District congressional representative, Democrat Chellie Pingree, never back the president’s positions.

A couple of controversial issues — the proposed southern border wall and Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal — highlight Golden’s approach to the job.

On border security, he said, “I get attacked from both sides” because he’s not all-in on funding a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States and he’s not against it, either.

“I don’t like people on the left saying it’s immoral” to have a wall, the legislator said, because it makes sense to have one along some stretches to keep people from entering the country improperly.

At the same time, he said, there’s no reason to build it along the entire border when there are hundreds of miles where there’s no need.

Golden said there’s also no reason to cough up the money to fund the entire wall that is needed in one big allocation. It would be better, he said, to pay for it “a little bit at a time.”

He said he doesn’t support the Green New Deal even though he is committed to doing what he can for the environment.

Golden said, for example, that the United States “should get back into the Paris Accord and be a global leader” in addressing climate change.

He said it doesn’t make sense to roll back requirements for better vehicle mileage and other steps the Trump administration has supported that push the country further from dealing with the need to cut carbon emissions.

Golden said, though, that he doesn’t want to spend his limited time and energy speaking up about policies that don’t have a chance of getting enacted.

He said he doesn’t understand why some people think politicians “should opine about things” on social media rather than concentrating on doing their work in committees and pursuing policies for their districts.

“I just don’t choose to fight every little battle,” he said. “You only have so much bandwidth.”

Golden said he would rather press for passage of better health care than criticize the Green New Deal or other plans proposed by colleagues that he may never even have to vote on.

Trying to allow Americans 50 and older to buy into Medicare is something that’s possible and pragmatic, Golden said, so it has a chance to happen. It’s worth focusing on, he said.

Golden said he knows how hard it is for struggling families in Maine because he’s held $8-an-hour jobs and last year earned less than $18,000 — a figure he knew because he just finished his taxes, a level that shows he’s one of the poorest members of Congress.

“I don’t roll my eyes at a couple hundred dollars” like so many of the wealthier members do, he said.

Sometimes that understanding matters, Golden said, citing the example of a policy change that switched the mileage reimbursement method for veterans who have to travel to get medical care.

When he sought help after returning from service in the U.S. Marines, he said he wouldn’t have had the gas money to get home from Augusta without the immediate cash payments he got during his appointments. The change to electronic reimbursements that arrive later might have left him unable to go at all.

Golden visited Break Coffee, the YMCA, J.T. Reids Gun Shop, Side By Each Brewing Co., among others, as he dropped in on businesses Friday.

Dan Poulin, owner of Orphan Annie’s on Court Street, smiled broadly when Golden walked into his antiques shop.

Recognizing him immediately, Poulin declared that “aside from guns, you’re my man.”

After selling the congressman a few $1 buttons — including one that said “Dear Congress, Grow the F— Up” that Golden said he wished he could give to 435 colleagues — Poulin told Golden, “You’re a bright spot in a really dark world.”

Golden said he doesn’t worry much about his re-election next year.

He said he raised more than $200,000 for his campaign in the first quarter without doing much of anything because he is “still getting a lot of the small dollar online stuff” from people who know he’s in a competitive district.

He said he doesn’t know who might run against him, though it appears the man he defeated last year, former Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, may be interested.

Golden said he’s sure he’ll have enough campaign cash, but he doesn’t think that matters much.

If he casts “bad votes,” Golden said, “all the money in the world wouldn’t help.”

Whether he gets re-elected, he said, is going to be based on whether Mainers “think I’m doing a good job.” 

He said he never dreamed of holding a position like the one he has today so he’s “not scared of losing” because he’s already had the honor of serving.

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