BELFAST, Maine— Waldo County went big for change Tuesday, with two seats flipping from Democrat to Republican and another that went the other way.
The closely watched race for Maine Senate District 23 went to Republican Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, a small-business owner who has served in the Maine House of Representatives for the last two terms. He won over House Majority Leader John Piotti, a Democrat from Unity, with 54 percent of the vote to Piotti’s 46 percent.
“As Republicans, we’re very, very happy. Town after town was coming his way,” David Parkman of Palermo, the Waldo County treasurer who sits on the Republican county committee, said Wednesday morning. “The thing about Mike is that he’s a businessman. I think, probably, as far as regulations go and that type of thing, he’ll be much more business-friendly to people than John was.”
Piotti, the executive director of the Maine Farmland Trust, served for four terms in the House. He said just before the election he felt it was a critical year for Maine politics and that the state needed someone who understands economic development in the Senate.
But Wednesday afternoon he sounded philosophical about his loss.
“It’s a Republican seat in a Republican year,” Piotti said. “I think it’s as simple as that.”
Mike Thibodeau said Wednesday afternoon that he was busy picking up his signs and savoring the results of the election.
“While it’s a lot of fun to win a race like that, you come to the realization that there’s a tremendous responsibility we all hold,” he said. “The campaign’s over. The people of Maine gave us an opportunity to govern, but they expect results — and we’ve got to hit the ground running.”
Elsewhere in the county:
- In District 41, Republican challenger James S. Gillway of Searsport beat incumbent Democratic Rep. Veronica Magnan of Stockton Springs with 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent.
“My campaign was basically run on protecting towns,” Gillway, Searsport’s town manager, said Wednesday.
He added that he wanted to thank his supporters as well as Magnan. The duo agreed to run as clean a campaign as possible, Gillway said.
“I’m very proud of both of us for that,” he said. “I’m hoping that’s the trend for the future. I think it needs to be.”
- In District 42, Republican Peter B. Rioux of Winterport took the majority of votes in a three-way race for the seat vacated by Thibodeau. Rioux collected 51.7 percent of the vote, while Green Party candidate Kenneth John Cole garnered 12.2 percent and Democrat Joseph E. Brooks picked up 36.09 percent.
- In District 43, Democrat Erin Herbig of Belfast bucked the trend, decisively winning the House seat that had been held by Republican Jayne Crosby Giles. Herbig pulled in 64.12 percent of the vote to Republican Lewis Baker’s 35.88 percent.
“I just feel really excited,” Herbig, who also works at Maine Farmland Trust, said. “Obviously there are some serious challenges, but I’m looking forward to just rolling my sleeves up and working hard. It’s interesting: In this election cycle, everybody is clearly tired of party politics. There’s not a lot of trust. Now, I think we need to work really hard to restore that trust.”
ä In District 44, Rep. Andy O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, also avoided the wave of anti-incumbent sentiment, recapturing his seat with 55.23 percent of the vote to Hope Republican Wendy P. Pelletier’s 44.77 percent.
- In District 45, Palermo Republican R. Ryan Harmon captured the seat that had been held by Piotti with 52.11 percent of the vote to Democrat Helen Sahadi of Thorndike’s 47.89 percent.
- For Waldo County commissioner, incumbent Republican Donald P. Berry Sr., of Belmont was re-elected by five votes over Democrat Betty Johnson of Lincolnville. Johnson said Tuesday that she will request a recount.
“There was disappointment, no doubt,” she said regarding the overall impact of election results on Democrats. “But I think we all felt that we really did go out there and work. We showed people that we believed, and people really rallied.”
Johnson said the Democrats’ Main Street headquarters was open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. every day with volunteers making phone calls to get out the vote.
“There were some victories,” she said. “In a different situation to what was going on throughout the country, I think we would have won all the seats. It’s just that kind of time right now — unfortunately.”