When Second District Rep. Jared Golden first ran for Congress in 2018, Gigi Larrc phonebanked and wrote postcards on his behalf. She volunteered again during his re-election campaign in 2020. But after a series of what she considers broken promises and his current opposition to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, Larrc says that won’t happen again.
“He makes me into a liar,” she said. “I don’t feel like now I can credibly campaign for him.”
Larrc said that she was originally motivated to volunteer for Golden because of his support for universal health care through Medicare For All — a policy position she believes he has now abandoned.
“If I say this person is supporting Medicare for All and people vote for him for that reason, and then he doesn’t, it makes me look like I tricked them,” she said.
Larrc began to become disillusioned in December 2019 after Golden split his vote on the two articles of impeachment against former President Donald Trump. Then, earlier this year, Golden was the sole Democratic vote in the House against Biden’s COVID relief package, the American Rescue Plan.
Now, in what Larrc considers the last straw, Golden is among a handful of Democratic holdouts opposed to the president’s $3.5 trillion 10-year “human infrastructure” package, which would lower prescription drug costs, and make major investments in health care, childcare and climate action.
“I can’t stay home and not vote because I don’t want [former Republican Rep. Bruce] Poliquin to win, but I hope somebody primaries him,” Larrc said of Golden.
‘It really reminds me so much of Susan Collins’
Belfast resident Rachel Herbener has also rethought her past volunteer work on behalf of Golden. In 2020, she mailed postcards to voters urging them to back the Lewiston Democrat.
“I don’t feel inclined to volunteer for him ever again,” she said.
Last week, Herbener turned her energy in another direction. She helped organize protests at Golden’s offices in Bangor and Lewiston. The demonstrations drew members from grassroots progressive groups throughout the Second District, including local Indivisible and Resistance groups, 350 Maine, Climate Action Now, Solidarity Bucksport and the Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project).
Many members of those groups knocked on doors during Golden’s election campaigns, Herbener said, but now they feel ignored.
“Who exactly is he trying to represent? I think he was brought into office because we wanted a Democratic agenda,” she said. “I don’t know if he’s thinking that he’s going to get Republican votes, because he’s certainly not fulfilling the expectations of all the people who worked for him.”
The organizers said they were not able to meet with Golden, but did share their concerns to his office staff.
Golden has taken to Maine newspapers to explain his resistance to support the Democrats’ Build Back Better agenda, which is being passed through a budget reconciliation process to avoid an inevitable Republican filibuster.
In recent op-eds, Golden said he wouldn’t vote for the $3.5 trillion proposal as it currently exists, citing concerns with how Democrats intend to pay for their proposals. While hitting Democrats from the left by criticizing their delayed rollout of dental coverage and limited extension of the widely popular Child Tax Credit, Golden has at the same time aligned himself with a bloc of conservative members from his party who pledged not to vote for Build Back Better unless a bipartisan $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure bill was prioritized.
Herbener said Golden’s argument follows a familiar trope in Maine politics where an elected official claims to support a policy that they say they cannot support for other, usually process, reasons.
“It really reminds me so much of [Sen.] Susan Collins where there’s this artifice that they are the adults in the room, they’re the ones who are going to really look into it and dissect it,” she said. “Now Golden’s disappointed because the dental plan won’t go into effect soon enough. In a bill this size it’s not going to be perfect for everyone. So are you just going to scuttle the whole ship?”
Calling out Golden’s corporate donors
At the Oct. 15 demonstration at Golden’s Bangor office, one participant wore a suit with a placard hanging from his neck reading “status quo.” He carried an oversized, cartoon-like bag with a dollar sign drawn on it. Another participant wore a cutout Golden mask and held up a red question mark.
“Who is Jared Golden?” Ridgely Fuller, one of the demonstration organizers, asked the crowd.
Fuller called attention to Golden’s recent fundraising. According to his September financial report, the congressman’s top contributors are currently individuals or political action committees associated with the No Labels organization and the investment management giant BlackRock.
No Labels is led by Joe Lieberman, a conservative former Senate Democrat and corporate lobbyist. The group supports the bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus, of which Golden is a member. Media reports show that the group is financed by a number of prominent hedge fund managers and largely advocates for corporate-friendly policies.
BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, controlling an estimated $10 trillion in assets globally including investments in major weapons contractors like General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
“These groups such as No Labels and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to the watchdog Open Secrets, provide significant funding to Jared Golden and pay for media ads praising his naysaying position,” Fuller said at the Bangor demonstration.
Democrats have sought to pay for the cost of Build Back Better by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, which in turn have been heavily lobbying members of Congress against those taxes.
‘You can’t take votes for granted’
Fuller and other critics won’t go as far as to say whether the contributions have led to a direct quid pro quo in the form of opposition to Build Back Better. But they do question what appears to be Golden’s assumption that opposing the Biden agenda will help him electorally in Maine’s red-leaning Second District.
“I don’t agree that that’s true. In fact, I think it will make it worse,” Larrc said. “The things in the social infrastructure package, the things that support working people, the things for climate intervention, I think those are the things that will bring the voters to the polls in the next election. If he is lukewarm on those things, people just won’t show up.”
Larrc pointed to a recent survey of voters in Maine’s Second Congressional District that found strong support among Democrats, Republicans and independents for the policies proposed in the Build Back Better bill.
“You can’t take votes for granted,” said Herbener. “I’m tired of the assumption that you’ll vote for someone because the alternative is worse. If you’re counting on voters to say, ‘Any Blue will do,’ that’s not going to fly forever.”
Beyond speculating about Golden’s political calculations, the grassroots demonstrators believe the congressman doesn’t share their sense of urgency on issues like health care, immigration, housing, and senior and child care, let alone the climate crisis. They say they don’t want to sit idle and let this moment — when Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress — to pass, as it may only be a short window.
“If they continue to water down Build Back Better to $1.5 trillion like they are discussing, it won’t amount to anything. It will be a small change,” Larrc said. “Unfortunately, at this time, the climate situation is such that we don’t have time for tiny steps. We can’t continue punting the ball down the field.”
Top photo: Demonstration outside Rep. Jared Golden’s Bangor office on Oct. 15. | Photo courtesy of Jim Anderberg