During Paul LePage’s tenure as Maine’s governor, Adrienne Bennett was often on the hot seat while serving as press secretary for her controversial boss.

Now she is eyeing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Adrienne Bennett Courtesy photo

Bennett, 40, declared Tuesday she hopes to snatch Maine’s 2nd District congressional seat from Democrat Jared Golden, who won the sprawling, rural district last year in one of the closest congressional races in the country.

Before she can take on the first-term incumbent from Lewiston, though, Bennett has to win a June primary against at least two other Republican hopefuls, former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn and former state Rep. Dale Crafts of Lisbon.

Brakey has been running since early summer and has already raised more than $300,000 for his campaign. Crafts plans a formal announcement of his candidacy Thursday.

The three-way contest “gives us an opportunity to have a real discussion and a real debate about what we stand for,” Brakey said.

Jason Savage, the state GOP’s executive director, said he anticipates “a good primary” with a diverse group of quality candidates. He said a primary contest for an open seat helps the party because “it makes our candidates better” and allows the strongest to emerge.

During a brief stop in Lewiston on Tuesday, Bennett said she looks forward to the primary against “two great opponents” who successfully shepherded good bills through the Legislature. But, she said, many Mainers see that politicians “quite often live in their own bubble” instead of knowing what it is like for ordinary people.

She said she grew up in the district, worked in television throughout the area and knows its people. Even so, she said, the most important thing is that she listens to them.

“This isn’t about me. This isn’t about any other candidates. This is about Mainers,” Bennett said.

Bennett took to the airwaves early Tuesday to announce her plans to join the fray during radio appearances with friendly hosts.

She also issued a news release declaring her support for President Trump.

“I love Maine and America, and right now many politicians and elites are trying to transform our state and country into something we don’t recognize and we don’t want,” she said in the release. “I will support our workers and small businesses, protect our trade, defend our borders, follow our Constitution, honor our history and flag, and uphold our traditional conservative values.”

She said “the people of Maine’s 2nd District helped to elect President Trump and want a representative in Congress who enthusiastically supports and promotes his America-First agenda.”

Bennett, who grew up in Troy, recently moved to Bangor from the Portland area. She has been working as a Realtor since LePage left office.

Brakey said he had thought Bennett planned to run against U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, because Bennett lived there and is “a more-moderate, more-establishment” contender who might do well in southern Maine. In the 2nd District, he said, voters “want an authentic conservative.”

Bennett, who worked as a television reporter before LePage hired her, said she “endured a rugged childhood of rural poverty” as a youngster raised by a single mother in a home in Troy with no indoor plumbing.

“Since I was a child, my only choice was to work hard,” she said in the release. “It built character and a strong work ethic, which became a way of life.”

“The harsh reality of her childhood made Bennett stronger, and she finished school on her own, completing her studies at the University of Maine at Orono and the New England School of Communications, paying her own way,” her press release said.

Bennett, who is not married, said she “focused on creating a better future for myself and my family.” She has a 19-year-old daughter who is in college.

LePage said during a radio interview last month that Golden “better be ready, because he’s going to have one hell of a battle” against a significant challenger, whom he did not name. He remains a big Bennett fan.

The ex-governor added in that interview that a Republican primary was likely, which is often considered a problem for parties trying to defeat an incumbent, and that Golden is going to be in trouble.

“Ranked-choice (voting) isn’t going to help him this time,” LePage said.

Golden captured the 2nd District seat in 2018 by narrowly defeating former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in the country’s first ranked-choice voting election for federal office.

Poliquin said this summer he would sit out the 2020 race because he wants to spend time helping his elderly parents.


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