When Republican Dale Crafts and Democrat Jared Golden served side-by-side for a term in the Maine Legislature, they rarely agreed on anything controversial.

During a time of sometimes bitter division in the Legislature, Crafts allied himself with Gov. Paul LePage while Golden served as one of his party’s legislative leaders in opposition to the governor.

During their two years together in Augusta, which ended when Crafts left office in 2016, the pair were polar opposites, their agendas starkly different and their votes essentially canceling each other out.

Interest groups that rated lawmakers during that period normally handed one of them a perfect or near perfect score while delivering a zero rating to the other.

Now the two are vying for a U.S. House seat in the Nov. 3 general election that Golden, 38, has held since 2018 when he ousted two-term Republican Bruce Poliquin in a razor-thin 2nd District congressional race.

Golden has raised far more money than Crafts, 61, and polls show him with a lead so big that election watchers are now saying the sprawling, rural district leans sharply Democratic in its allegiance, despite giving Donald Trump a 10-point win for its electoral vote in 2016.

The most recent Federal Election Commission filing deadline last week showed that Golden raised $4.3 million for his race while Crafts pulled in $1.2 million. Golden had almost $500,000 in cash on hand while Crafts had nearly $200,000, which includes $97,000 he loaned to his campaign.

A Portland-based Pan Atlantic Research Omnibus Poll released Thursday found that Golden has a 27-point lead in the district, an astonishingly large advantage for a first-term lawmaker whose 2018 victory was among the closest in the country. An internal GOP poll shows a closer race, with Crafts’ chances dependent on whether voters learn more about him in time.

Showing how little confidence it has in Crafts’ ability to win, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that aims to win House seats for the Republicans, yanked $450,000 worth of scheduled television advertising on his behalf off the air this week, opting to use the money in more favorable districts.

Crafts said the race will tighten up. “I was in the same boat” in July’s three-way Republican primary, where Crafts was outspent and little known, but came from behind to win. This time, too, “the numbers are going to close fast,” Crafts said.

Crafts said Golden is presenting a warped image of himself to voters.

“When it comes to politics, you can’t just be a chameleon,” Crafts said. “I wish he would just be who he is and I’ll be who I am.”

“He’s running as a Republican,” Crafts said, and hiding his staunch support for Democratic policies and programs from voters who are wary of liberal notions.

Golden doesn’t hide his Democratic Party allegiance, though he readily admits that he doesn’t always toe the line.

Golden said he’s sought to represent his district humbly and well, pushing for help for small businesses and ordinary Mainers, sometimes against the stances pursued by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic stalwarts.

Crafts urged people “to check out our voting records” and see for themselves which candidate best aligns with their thinking.

That’s not easy to do with congressional issues, since Crafts hasn’t had to take on a stand on them, but since both men voted on the same bills for two consecutive years in Augusta, a straight-up comparison is possible there.

During their joint term in the state House, the Maine AFL-CIO rated them on bills related to labor, including a push to raise the minimum wage. Golden scored 100% while Crafts got a zero.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses, looking at bills it considered crucial such as stopping the expansion of Medicaid, flipped the results, handing Crafts a 100% rating while Golden collected a zero from the group.

Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, concerned about bills that included parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion and Medicaid expansion, rated Golden 100%, while Crafts emerged with a zero from the pro-choice group.

The Maine League of Conservation Voters, which pushed for more funding for land conservation and related issues, managed to avoid giving anybody a zero. For both 2015 and 2016, it handed Golden a perfect score while delivering a 20% and then a 22% rating to Crafts over the same period. It liked the Republican’s votes on energy efficiency and conserving more land.

The American Conservative Union, concerned about issues ranging from building regulations to pension reform, awarded Crafts a 95% rating in 2015 and a 96% in 2016. It gave Golden a 5% rating followed by a 9% mark.

The Maine People’s Alliance, pushing to limit tax havens and a host of other progressive issues, scored Golden 100% while Crafts got a zero on its scorecard.

Despite their widely varying scores from contested issues in Augusta, there is a lot the two candidates agree on, from the need for more civility in politics to opposition to a federal mask mandate.

On gun issues, always a hot topic in rural Maine, the National Rifle Association gave Crafts an A+ rating. It most recently gave a B to Golden, a combat veteran with the U.S. Marines. The Maine Sportsman’s Alliance declined to pick between them for its endorsement even though Crafts sits on its board of directors.

Here are some of the key issues where the two disagree:


Given the growing possibility that federal courts will chip away or repeal a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that determined women have a right to choose abortion, the prospect that members of Congress may wind up playing a crucial role on the issue is also increasing.

That’s why it is notable that Golden and Crafts have sharply different views on the issue.

“I’m pro-life. There’s not any question there,” Crafts said.

The only exception, he said, would be when there is “a clear-cut case” where an abortion is the only way to save the life of an expectant mother.

For Golden, choice is paramount.

“I believe every woman has the right to make her own health care decisions,” he said on his campaign website. He said that “Washington politicians have no business being involved in the private medical choices made between a woman and her health care professional.”

Crafts said he thinks “more and more” people are shifting to what he calls the pro-life side of the debate, particularly among “this new generation” of young people who have seen ultrasound images and listened to fetal heartbeats.

“I think we’re winning” on the issue, Crafts said.

Polls indicate most Mainers are currently pro-choice.

Climate change

Crafts readily admits the climate is changing. He’s seen it, he said.

“You know what I’m tired of? We blame everything on climate change,” Crafts said.

He said he is “not convinced” that humanity has anything to do with the rising temperatures worldwide and growing volatility of weather patterns.

“There are arguments on both sides, science-wise,” Crafts said.

In fact, however, there is virtually no opposition within the scientific community regarding the role people are playing in the growing climate crisis.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science said, “Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that “most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

Golden called climate change “the greatest environmental challenge of our time” and pushed for the country to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement that sets targets to try to hold the line on carbon levels in the atmosphere.

He said the government needs “to begin the decisive, comprehensive actions necessary to address climate change” in order to keep its impact within tolerable limits and put the United States in the forefront of developing the new technologies that will be necessary.

Health care

Crafts criticized the idea of Medicare-for-All, insisting it would hike the cost of health care for taxpayers by trillions of dollars and drag down the quality of the care patients receive.

He said doctors won’t want to work for a government salary, a paltry return on the years they invest in training.

Crafts said, though, that “we’ve got to have affordable health care for everybody somehow.”

He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act and turn instead to a free market solution while finding a way to protect people with preexisting conditions.

Golden has called for expanding access to the ACA, a program he strongly backs. While Golden has expressed support for universal health care, he has focused his attention on trying to lower prescription costs and expand Medicare coverage.

“No one should go broke because they can’t afford the care they need,” Golden said. “In Congress, I’ve fought to make health care more affordable for more people, and that fight’s not over.”

Balanced budget

Both Crafts and Golden said the government has to do better in controlling spending.

Crafts said he favors a balanced budget amendment that would force the federal government to spend only what it takes in unless supermajorities in Congress agree to allocate more.

The nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office has estimated the 2020 deficit will hit $3.3 trillion, putting the overall national debt a bit shy of $27 trillion. It was $19.9 trillion when President Donald Trump took office, promising to reduce the annual deficit to zero by 2024.

More than three-quarters of federal spending goes to retirement programs, health care, the military and interest payments, areas that politicians have traditionally found difficult to cut. Cutting all of the rest of the government, from agriculture subsidies to weather satellites, would not eliminate the yearly deficit.

“We don’t spend our money wisely,” Crafts said, pointing to a story he heard about the National Guard rushing to buy boots it didn’t need before the end of the fiscal year so that next year’s allocation wouldn’t be reduced.

“How many of these little things are there going to be” if somebody really looked, Crafts asked.

A handful of bills have been introduced in the House for a balanced budget amendment this term. The most popular of them has 41 cosponsors, all Republicans.

Campaign finance reform

Golden said the country won’t make progress on many serious issues until it can get money out of politics.

He backs a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, has called for an end to corporate political action committees and cosponsored the For the People Act that would expand voting rights, limit gerrymandering and bolster ethics rules while reducing the influence of private money on elections.

Crafts told Project Vote Smart that he opposes regulation of indirect campaign contributions from companies and unions.

Pandemic relief

Though both candidates would like to see a new round of help for businesses and others struggling because of COVID-19, Crafts said he opposes giving federal money to local and state governments that are seeing drastic budgetary shortfalls, including Maine.

Crafts said “failed states” and Democratic-run cities that are not handling money well should not be bailed out.

Golden urged the inclusion of at least $250 billion to assist municipalities and states. Without the money, he said, they’ll likely need to lay off workers soon, including first responders such as police officers and firefighters.

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