Two sitting state representatives are competing in June for the chance to represent the Republican Party in the race for the 2nd Congressional District.

Rep. Mike Soboleski of Phillips and Rep. Austin Theriault of Fort Kent are both in their first term in the state Legislature.

And although both are Republicans, the similarities end there.

Soboleski, 67, is a Marine, small business owner and actor who played parts in more than 100 feature films and 52 different television series, including “Third Watch” and “Law and Order SVU.”

Theriault, 30, is a former NASCAR driver and small business owner. His family has logged and farmed in the St. John Valley for many generations, according to his campaign website.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Theriault in the GOP primary, saying he 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.”

Theriault is also better funded, raising more than $1 million through the end of March compared to Soboleski’s take of $100,541, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The two are competing for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden in November. The seat is highly competitive and is currently listed as a “Democrat Toss Up” by the Cook Political Report, which rates the competitiveness of all 435 House elections.

The sprawling 2nd District — the largest by area east of the Mississippi River — is fertile ground for Republicans. Trump has done well here, winning the district in 2016 and again in 2020.

As he campaigned in Oxford County last week, Soboleski said if he gets to Washington, he will focus on constituent services and making sure he is visible in the district.

“America needs to be put first,” he said. “The American public needs to be put first. Our seniors. Our veterans. We need to focus on issues that are impactful to make sure America remains the greatest nation in the world.”

Standing outside Oxford Plains Speedway, one of his old racetracks, Theriault talked about the pride he feels growing up in northern Maine and the responsibility he feels to try to make a difference.

“We’re facing record inflation right now caused by, in my opinion, out of control government spending and wasteful spending,” he said. “We’re facing crises on the world stage that we didn’t have five and six years ago and I think that’s coming from a lack of leadership from this current administration.”

In interviews with Spectrum News, Soboleski and Theriault both emphasized their support for the 2nd Amendment and enhanced security at the U.S. southern border.

Theriault, who mentors new race car drivers, said better budgeting at the federal level could help Mainers facing high costs.

“They need to prove to us that the money they are spending is worthwhile,” he said. “Otherwise, we just pile on year after year. You see growth at 10 or 20% over just a period of just a couple of budget cycles.”

Soboleski, a Gardiner Area High School graduate who joined the Marines, said he’d back legislation to offer more support for veterans, particularly in the period following military service.

“People get trained on how to be part of the military, we need a training component to teach them how to come back into civilian life,” he said.

Soboleski pitches himself as the most conservative candidate in the race, touting his 100% conservative voting record from the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Theriault said he thinks the Trump endorsement will help him not just with diehard Republicans, but with undecided voters in the 2nd District.

And while the vast majority of the voters in the June 11 GOP primary will be Republicans, the newly adopted semi-open primary system does allow those not enrolled in either party to cast ballots.

Both men criticized Golden for coming out in support of an assault weapons ban following the mass shooting in Lewiston in which 18 people were killed in October.

“I’m not just a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I’m a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment,” Soboleski said. “I love my guns and no one’s going to come anywhere near them. I’ll do everything in my power to protect the 2nd Amendment.”

Theriault said improving mental health services is the way to help prevent future tragedies like the one in Lewiston.

“I’m not in favor of gun control,” he said. “I don’t think gun control is going to solve that problem. I think it’s going to take rights away from people who follow the law. I support the 2nd Amendment. I do support increasing funding for community mental health.”