The field for the Republican primary race in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District grew Monday when former NASCAR driver and State Rep. Austin Theriault (R-Fort Kent) announced his candidacy, hoping to be the one to take on Democrat Rep. Jared Golden in 2024.
Theriault, 29, is currently serving in his first term in Augusta representing Maine House District 1, after defeating Democrat Dana Marie Appleby by a landslide in 2022.
He is the third Republican to officially enter the race, after State Rep. Mike Soboleski (R-Phillips) and former Maine Senate candidate Rob Cross.
“Regular hardworking folks are getting held down by out-of-touch, out-of-state elites who are clueless about how hard it is to make a living in Maine,” Theriault said in his Monday announcement. “And some of our leaders are not very effective in fighting back – and I will be.
“Inflation and the cost of living is out of control, the drug crisis is tearing apart rural Maine, our borders are wide open, our small towns are dying – and I will come in with the fire to confront these issues,” he said.
Theriault is a Fort Kent native from a multi-generational logging and farming family with roots in Aroostook County’s St. John Valley.
He started racing at age 13, began managing his own business at 16, and after graduating Fort Kent Community High School went on to have a successful career as a NASCAR driver and entrepreneur.
“My story is similar to that of many rural Maine families: my grandfather, who couldn’t read or write, left school in 4th grade to work on the farm to feed his family,” Theriault said. “From the grip of poverty, through hard sacrifices and labor from his bare hands, our family built a logging business in Aroostook County.”
“My family taught me the values that govern my life: love of family, respect for people, the value of hard work, and perseverance,” he said.
The 29-year-old says that its time for a “new generation of leaders” to take on an aging class of Washington elites, and “for relentless, energetic, and effective leadership for Maine at a national level.”
“Joe Biden has failed us and Jared Golden fails to stand up, speak out, and get the job done for a part of the state that desperately needs leadership,” Theriault said. “Golden is a nice guy, but he is still part of the problem.”
“Maine doesn’t need old, failed leaders like Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer – or those will fail to hold them accountable,” he added. “We need a new generation of leaders who will be effective in fighting back against them and standing up for you.”
“We’re dealing with a president who, on a good day, doesn’t really even have a good grasp of what’s going on, unfortunately,” Theriault told the Maine Wire Monday. “It’s left a vacuum of power, I think, to where progressives and radicals are able to pull the strings of government in way that we haven’t seen in decades.”
“I think at the end of the day, you’ve got to look at what people have been able to accomplish and what people have been able to do in their lives,” he said, speaking to his experience managing a business. “And that’s all about results and getting things done. And very few people in D.C., I think, are able to talk about those things.”
When asked what he believes is the top issue facing Mainers in CD2, Theriault said that he thinks it is inflation and the Biden administration’s “total disregard for fiscal restraint.”
“I think what we’ve seen is a politicization of economic and fiscal policy, and that is going to saddle this generation that we’re in now, and then the next generation of kids who have yet to have been born, with a level of debt and interest payments on that national debt to a point where I even question whether it’s possible to recover from that,” Theriault said.
“As Congressman, I’m always going to fight for responsible governance, and reducing spending,” he said.
“A lot of problems that we’re seeing come from the lack of consistent economic policies that hurt the middle class, hurt the working class, and obviously hurt the poor,” he said. “Inflation hits them the most, because that’s the hidden tax that politicians don’t want to talk about.”
Theriault slammed Golden for going along with President Biden’s spending on legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, saying it has been a primary driver of inflation and hurts Maine’s middle class.
“Jared [Golden] has consistently been somebody who’s voted for more spending,” he said. “He’s consistently voted for things like the Inflation Reduction Act, which was hundreds of billions of dollars worth of new spending on on environmental, special interest groups and whatnot — none of which help the everyday, middle class 2nd District voter.”
Theriault said that he is especially proud of the work that he did on the State Legislature’s Transportation Committee during the last legislative session — helping to pass a law that directed money from the state’s General Fund into the Highway Fund.
“Many people were just really frustrated with the conditions of the roads, and the lack of the lack of safe, accessible transportation — and roads are a big issue,” Theriault said.
“And I think people deserve, you know, with Maine being so overtaxed, and the government spending so much money, that in general, I think the least that the voters and the citizens in the 2nd District expect is that our roads are safe for both cars and trucks,” he said.
In response to a question regarding whether he supports the King Pine Wind Farm project in Aroostook County amid concerns of substantial profits from the project being reaped by foreign investors, Theriault said that the project is “still in the early planning stages” and wants to “see things play out.”
“I don’t have all of the information regarding, you know, what you talked about — I think it’s important for the people affected by the line to be able to have their say, and to be able to talk to the individuals that are planning this,” he said. “I think the rights of those folks need to be heard.”
“And there needs to be fairness in the process,” he added.
“I think that obviously the potential investment is big for Aroostook County, but I want to see things play out, and I want to make sure that this is a fair proposal that comes to fruition,” he said. “And it needs to make sure that the energy costs are reduced.”