Austin Theriault may have been racing all of his life, but his next race is one of the most important of his career.
Originally from Aroostook County in Maine, Theriault has been serving in the state’s House of Representatives since 2022 and has his eyes on a larger prize. In September, Theriault announced his bid to represent the 2nd Congressional District of Maine in the United States Congress, hoping to win the primary election and face incumbent Jared Golden.
What drives the former driver to be so involved in politics and contend for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives?
“I’ve always believed that it’s the duty of regular people to get involved in their government,” Theriault said. “The government was formed hundreds of years ago to make sure that the regular people had a voice. As I’ve grown as a person and as I’ve seen and been a part of racing and business, I’ve realized that certainly the values and the skills and the experiences that I’ve built along the way prepare me for the next step.”
As a former NASCAR driver, successful business owner and community advocate, Theriault believes that when others are turning away from politics and leadership it is his turn to step up and become more involved, making a larger impact on everyday lives.
“We live in a time where I feel like a lot of knowledgeable people, a lot of great people who could be extremely beneficial, sort of sit on the sidelines, and I feel like sitting on the sidelines is not going to make our country better, it’s not gonna make it more prosperous,” said Theriault.
“I’m just one person trying to get involved and my hope is that more people will go from being on the sidelines to actively involved, to whatever extent they possibly can to make sure that this generation and the next generations that come after it live in a country that’s free and can provide opportunities,” he said. “It’s all of us that have to work together to make sure that happens.”
Turning 31 years old in January 2024, Theriault is entering a world normally dominated by those that have served for decades and are often entrenched in their ways. He sees this as a new opportunity to bring in fresh thinking, new ideas and a renewed perspective on the issues facing the nation.
“Most people that I talk to right now are really excited and somewhat wanting a new generation of leaders to start stepping up and getting involved,” he said. “That next generation that’s starting to get involved, like myself, I think has an opportunity to provide a different perspective and different ideas to shake up the landscape that’s been pretty static for too many years.
“Consistency is fine, but right now, most people, regardless of their political affiliation, I believe, would agree that the same ideas are not what’s needed,” he added. “We need new people. We need new energy and we need new leadership and that’s hopefully what I can bring and what my generation can bring to the table.”
One of those changes that Theriault would like to implement if he is elected is to use that platform to bridge the gap between what happens in Washington D.C. and his constituents back in Maine, especially in the 2nd District, which he points out has fallen behind the rest of the state in terms of education and economic growth, while also addressing other pressing matters such as the mental health crisis, illegal drugs crossing the Canadian border and human trafficking.
Ultimately, Theriault hopes to work across the aisle and put partisan politics aside with the goal of solving problems and actually making an impact and difference. Admitting there is gridlock and disagreement, he believes there is an opportunity to grow the country by working together instead of causing more political division.
“Years ago there used to be extreme differences on beliefs and how to move forward, but these people, despite their disagreements, found a way to still get along. We’ve seemed to reach a tipping point right now where just because you disagree, you can’t be my friend or we can’t associate with each other or somehow you’re the enemy if we disagree,” Theriault pointed out. “I think those days that are upon us right now where you can’t disagree or else you’re the enemy, are a huge problem for finding solutions that work for everybody or that work for most people.
“The gridlock (in politics), that’s a huge issue as well and I think both parties have a lot of responsibility,” he said. “Just because you disagree doesn’t mean that the other person doesn’t like the country or hates the country. I think those ideas are definitely flawed.”
In order to secure his seat and start making a difference on the national level, Theriault must first win the Republican primary in June 2024, before the larger campaign against Golden begins.
Will the fact he is a former NASCAR driver help garner more attention and support for his campaign?
“I think it’s a good start, but it’s not the end,” he said. “At the end of the day, (the voters) also want to know where I came from, my upbringing, being born in Saint John Valley, it’s all sort of the sum of the parts. Racing is one story of my background, but it’s just one part of the big picture of working hard, valuing family and your community, not being afraid to do what is right and standing up for what is right, valuing everybody just as they were yourself.”
For more information on Austin Theriault’s campaign, visit austinformaine.com or follow him on social media.