Republican takes hotly contested seat

Posted Nov. 03, 2010, at 9:20 p.m.

ELLSWORTH,  Maine — Concerns about the state’s economy and jobs situation were key factors that propelled one-term Republican Rep. Brian Langley to victory in the Senate District 28 race on Tuesday.

“That was the resounding theme throughout the district,” Langley said on Wednesday.

Langley defeated two opponents to win the Senate seat, which is being vacated by Democrat Dennis Damon, who was barred from running again by term limits. With all precincts in the district reporting, Langley won the seat with 9,597 votes, a comfortable margin over Democrat Rep. James Schatz, who received 6,397 votes, and Green Independent Lynne Williams, who received 2,307 votes.

People throughout the district are concerned about the lack of jobs and a business climate that seems unable to create new jobs, Langley said.

“We need to work to change that,” he said.

Schatz said it was clear he should have spent more time campaigning in Ellsworth, Langley’s hometown, where Langley out-polled him by almost 1,700 votes. The Democrat said Wednesday he did not think he had been affected by the anti-incumbent wave that affected many other races around the state or by other Republican gains in the state Legislature. He pointed out that he polled well in the towns he has represented for several terms in the House.

“That tells me that people there think I did a good job,” he said.

Schatz also said his race was affected by the presence of a third party in the race.

The three-way campaign, which had been relatively low-key, turned nasty during the last week with an attack campaign against Schatz funded by a Virginia-based Republican political action committee. All three candidates condemned the negative, outside influence in the campaign and said it had an impact on the race.

“Certainly, I think it had an effect,” Schatz said Wednesday. “I think it had more of an effect in Ellsworth where they are not as familiar with how small town government works.”

Push polling, also funded through the PAC, was concentrated on Ellsworth, he said.

Langley also was angered by the negative ads, which he said reflected negatively on him. Although it is unlikely the negative ads turned the tide in that race, he said it left the impression among some constituents that he was behind the ads. That, he said, cost him some votes.

“People in Maine just don’t like it,” he said.

Williams said the negative attacks turned the campaign into a very partisan contest.

“That outside money made it a partisan race between Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “There became more of a push to support the party and people couldn’t vote their conscience or for an interesting alternative.”

Williams said she was pleased. “I think it is a good showing,” she said. “I think the party generated a lot of credibility in the county that could lead to a successful candidate in the future.”

Both Langley and Schatz said the issue of outside campaign tactics would not end with the election. Schatz said he intended to track down those responsible for the attack ads and to hold them accountable. Although Langley said nothing  could be done to stop that type of outside influence, but he was looking into legislation that would require some type of disclaimer upfront to indicate that the ads were not sponsored by a candidate.

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