Kasie Kolbe and fellow residents of Lisbon cheer for Dale Crafts, who announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday in Lisbon. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LISBON — Claiming the support of two prominent Republicans — former Gov. Paul LePage and Shawn Moody, last year’s GOP gubernatorial candidate — Dale Crafts jumped into the 2nd Congressional District race Thursday.

Republican Dale Crafts of Lisbon announces his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives at at rally in Lisbon on Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We want to partner with Donald Trump,” Crafts said after his announcement before a crowd of about 60 people in the old school gym at the MTM Community Center.

Crafts, 61, hopes to knock U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat, out of office after a single term on Capitol Hill.

“We all deserve better,” he said.

Crafts’ formal entry into the race locks in at least a three-way primary next June in which Republicans will pick their standard-bearer using ranked-choice voting.

Also in the mix are former state Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn, who lost a U.S. Senate bid last year, and Adrienne Bennett, a Realtor who served as press secretary for LePage for years.

Though LePage could not be reached for comment, Crafts said he is “extremely happy” to have the former governor’s endorsement in the primary. “I am proud to have him by my side and humbled by the faith he has in our campaign.”

Crafts said his backers include almost 50 current and former legislators who support his “pro-growth, pro-economy policies that will keep Maine and America great.”

Brakey’s campaign issued a statement saying Brakey “is the only candidate who has the grass-roots organization to beat Jared Golden’s Astroturf campaign” because of his success in earning the support of Maine’s conservative activists.

The GOP is eager to offer a fierce challenge to Golden, who represents a district that went heavily for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election.

Golden won the seat last year in the country’s first ranked-choice election for a congressional office, barely squeaking by two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin to win.

Poliquin, a Waterville native, opted to sit out a possible rematch in order to devote his time to caring for his elderly parents in Brunswick.

Republican Dale Crafts of Lisbon announces his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives at at rally in Lisbon on Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Crafts, a small business owner who has needed a wheelchair since a 1983 motorcycle accident, has always been ready to take on any challenge, said his daughter, Bobbi-Lee Jeselskis.

Crafts said the accident was “a defining moment” in his life, then added, “I would not allow it to define me.”

He said he quickly learned to drive again and soon got a tiny tractor that would let him continue the hunting and fishing he has always enjoyed.

“Now game animals fear the sound of those tracks running through the woods,” Crafts said.

He created Mobility Plus, a research and development company, to help others with disabling injuries regain their ability to get around, a move he said is crucial to independence.

After a stint on the Lisbon Town Council, Crafts served in the state House of Representatives for four terms starting in 2008.

The general election is November 2020 and there is still plenty of time for other potential contenders to jump into the race as well.

Golden does not face any Democratic opposition. So far, there are no independents in the race.

Republican Dale Crafts of Lisbon announces his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives at at rally in Lisbon on Thursday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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