A month after he landed in the hospital with a bad case of COVID-19, Republican congressional hopeful Mike Perkins is dropping out the race to represent Maine’s 2nd District.

Mike Perkins Submitted photo

A recovering Perkins, the longtime council leader in Oakland, said he is going to go after a state Senate seat in the Waterville area instead.

He said Tuesday that he changed his mind in large part because he got so sick last month.

At one point, the 59-year-old Perkins said, doctors told his wife he might only live for a couple more hours.

What he didn’t know at the time is that his wife was also so ill with COVID-19 that she couldn’t get out of bed. They didn’t tell him about her condition because he was so frail in intensive care.

Both husband and wife pulled through, though, and are on the mend. Perkins said he lost 32 pounds in the hospital while he struggled with the disease.

The experience caused Perkins to reconsider his campaign, he said. He did not like being in a position where he could not even take care of his ailing wife.

Besides, he said, “if I’m dead, I’m not going to be able to help anybody.”

Then he paused and added that perhaps his cremated body might provide some good fertilizer for a local farm since politicians are already well-practiced in all things related to manure.

Perkins said he is not going to endorse any of the other contenders for GOP backing in the June 14 primary, including front-runner Bruce Poliquin, a former congressman from the district who lost the office in 2018.

“I don’t want to piss off little Brucey Poliquin,” Perkins said. “But he has a hard run” ahead with so many rank-and-file Republicans dissatisfied with him as their prospective candidate.

With Perkins’ departure from the GOP primary field, there are four contenders vying for the right next year to challenge two-term U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Lewiston Democrat who is considered one of the most vulnerable House incumbents in the country.

Leading the Republican field in the sprawling district is Poliquin, who Golden defeated in 2018 to snatch the seat in a GOP-leaning district. He raised nearly $900,000 within weeks of announcing his candidacy last summer.

But Poliquin still faces opposition within his own party from Liz Caruso of Caratunk, one of the leaders of the successful ballot question that took aim at a proposed hydropower line through western Maine; banker Garrett Swazey of Bangor; and Sean Joyce of Newburgh.

Perkins said he’ll get behind whichever of them emerges as his party’s standard bearer after the primary.

In the meantime, he said, he would be happy to bring Poliquin or Caruso or the others around Oakland so they can meet residents who will likely vote it the primary — a veiled shot at Poliquin, who long claimed to live in the town but was rarely seen there.

Poliquin spends most of his time in a seaside estate in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, but has said he is going to move to the Bangor area.

Perkins, who has logged three terms in the state House of Representatives, said he is looking forward to running for the state Senate seat that Republican Scott Cyrway has held for four terms. Cyrway cannot run again because of term limits.

Party leaders are pushing for Perkins to fill the seat in Augusta.

Senate Republican leader Jeff Timberlake of Turner said in a prepared statement that “Mike is a down-to-earth Mainer who works hard every day to help improve his community and his state. I worked with him in the Maine House, and I’ll be very glad to work with him again in the Maine Senate. His commonsense approach and his lifetime of practical experience will make him an excellent state senator.”

Senate District 16, which Perkins hopes to represent, consists of the Kennebec County municipalities of Albion, Oakland, Waterville and Winslow, and the Somerset County municipality of Fairfield.

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