Republican Eric Brakey addresses supporters in front of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden’s office in Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon. Brakey was delivering petitions that ask Golden, a Democrat, to remove his support for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Republican congressional candidate Eric Brakey of Auburn and a handful of supporters trudged down Lisbon Street on Wednesday afternoon carrying big cardboard boxes.

Inside them, he said, were petitions from 1,500 residents of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District calling on U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, to “stop the impeachment witch hunt!”

U.S. Rep.-elect Jared Golden File photo

Brakey, one of four GOP contenders aiming to unseat Golden next year, said he had a box for each of Maine’s counties.

Since it was akin to divvying up three reams of paper among 16 large boxes, nobody opening them was surprised to find only a paltry pile of paper inside each.

The largely empty boxes didn’t appear to faze the Golden staffers in the face of the supposed groundswell of anger that GOP officials and candidates say is surging through first-term Democrat’s largely rural district in the wake of the congressman’s support for impeaching President Donald Trump.

The Maine Republican Party’s chairwoman, Demi Kouzounas, said in a prepared statement that Golden is putting manufactured D.C. drama ahead of his own constituents,” who backed Trump by a margin of 10 points in the 2016 election.

“It’s clear,” she said, “that Golden has no interest in being the voice of a district that overwhelmingly voted for President Trump.”

Kouzounas called him “an empty suit and a rubber stamp vote for Nancy Pelosi,” the Democratic House speaker from California.

Two of the other Republicans taking on Golden — Adrienne Bennett of Bangor and Dale Crafts of Lisbon — also criticized the freshman lawmaker’s impeachment stand.

Crafts, whose campaign collected hundreds of petition signatures like the ones Brakey assembled, didn’t bother with boxes for them. Instead, he emailed copies to the congressman.

In a prepared statement, Crafts said that Golden’s vote for impeachment would “betray the Maine people in his pro-Trump district.”

“The impeachment inquiry has not only been an attack on our president; it has been an attack on his pro-economy, pro-jobs, pro-growth policies, and Republicans across the country” Crafts said.

He said Golden should have sought instead “to end this political, partisan persecution witch hunt once and for all.”

Bennett said Mainers will hold Golden responsible for his decision to vote in favor of an impeachment charge that Trump abused his power while opposing a second one accusing the president of obstructing justice.

“By putting politics first and trying to have it both ways, he has revealed that he truly stands for nothing,” Bennett said. “We deserve better.”

“When Rep. Golden gets back from palling around with the political elites in Washington, D.C., he is going to have a lot to answer for to the Maine people,” she said. “Importantly, he will have to answer for why he disrespects the voters in this district so much that he seeks to nullify our 2016 vote for president and deny us that same vote in 2020.”

Brakey said it is telling that “not a single Republican” broke ranks to join the Democratic effort to impeach Trump. He said that alone shows the impeachment isn’t the right thing to do.

He called Golden’s choice to back it “an insult” to the people of his district.

They’re “sick and tired of watching this impeachment drama,” Brakey said.

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