Former NASCAR Driver Austin Theriault Wins GOP Primary in Maine Swing District

Former NASCAR Driver Austin Theriault Wins GOP Primary in Maine Swing District
Austin Theriault greets fans during driver introductions for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series auto race at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Va., on Sept. 21, 2019. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

Former NASCAR driver Austin Theriault crossed the finish line on June 11 to next take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, in a race that could determine who controls the House next year.

Mr. Theriault, a Maine state representative since 2022, defeated fellow state Rep. Michael Soboleski in the GOP primary in what is a swing district. When The Associated Press called the race at 8:52 p.m. EDT, Mr. Theriault had 67 percent of the vote, with 42 percent reporting.

In the district, which is in the northern part of the Pine Tree State, Republicans have been increasingly successful in elections in recent years, particularly since President Donald Trump was first elected.

The towns and counties where President Trump received the most votes in 2020 could be strong areas for Mr. Theriault, who received the former president’s endorsement. That includes Penobscot County, home to Bangor, and Oxford County, which shares a border with New Hampshire.

“Austin Theriault will work hard to Secure the Border, Protect our always under siege Second Amendment, Stop Crime, Cut Taxes, and Support our Brave Law Enforcement, Military, and Veterans,” posted former President Trump on his social media site, Truth Social, on March 27.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) also endorsed Mr. Theriault.

In the 2020 presidential election, while then-candidate Joe Biden carried the city of Auburn in Androscoggin County, which borders the 1st District, President Trump still received a significant number of votes there.

In the state legislature, Mr. Theriault, 30, represents a district on the northern tip of Maine, in Fort Kent. In this year’s presidential primary, former President Trump received 205 votes, or 87 percent of the vote, in Fort Kent.

But the former president also won dozens of small surrounding towns by overwhelming margins, a pattern that Mr. Theriault will hope to replicate to build a winning coalition in the primary.

Mr. Theriault had a major financial advantage over Mr. Soboleski. As of the May 22 filing deadline, Mr. Theriault had raised $1.2 million, while Mr. Soboleski had raised $117,000.

Mr. Soboleski’s district includes Franklin, Somerset, and Oxford counties. He has the backing of Dale Crafts, the Republican nominee in 2020, and multiple state legislators.

Mr. Golden, a moderate who has served in Congress since January 2019, faced no primary opponent. He voted against one of the two articles of impeachment against President Trump in 2019.

As of March 5, there were more than 1.15 million registered voters in Maine. Of those, 35 percent were Democrats and 28 percent were Republicans.

Maine uses ranked-choice voting for legislative primaries with more than two candidates on the ballot. Most races on the ballot Tuesday had only two candidates to choose from, but there were two state House races in which voters could rank their choice of candidates. Ranked-choice voting goes into effect only if no candidate reaches 50 percent of the vote based on voters’ first choices.

Mr. Theriault launched his career at the local speedway and worked his way to NASCAR’s top level, though he never won a race. He was injured in a crash in 2019 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. He has since stepped back from driving and is a consultant, mentor, and trainer for other drivers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times