PORTLAND, Maine — Cinderella U.S. House hopeful Patrick Calder put to rest any question of whether he’d seek a recount in the tightly contested 1st District GOP primary Wednesday afternoon, calling for southern Maine Republicans to rally behind state Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney in the race against incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree.
Courtney needed a late surge in votes reported from his home York County to edge Calder for the party nomination to challenge Pingree. The BDN called the race just after 11 a.m. Wednesday for the Springvale lawmaker, who garnered just 276 more votes than Calder among nearly 30,000 cast, despite having what political analysts believed was a heavy advantage based on his 10 years in the state Legislature.
“I don’t think there’s a person around who is not stunned and surprised by just what a small difference that was,” Calder said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference held at Pat’s Pizza in the Old Port. “The results were clear, if close, and I congratulate Sen. Courtney on his victory.”
Calder said “unequivocally, there will be no recount.”
Pingree also congratulated Courtney on Wednesday afternoon, saying in a statement she wishes “the best for him and his family during the campaign.”
“I’m looking forward to a healthy, positive debate this fall on the important issues that Maine families face,” she said. “It’s been an honor to serve the people of Maine and I’m working hard to earn another term in Congress.”
While Calder and Courtney were polite adversaries over the past six weeks, they joined forces Wednesday and set their sights squarely on Pingree, hoping to galvanize 1st District Republicans who were divided almost down the middle during the primary vote.
“The primary is over,” Calder said. “We’re all on the same side now. We all believe in personal freedom, less government and lower taxes. There’s a lot more that unites us than divides us, and we need to work together to make sure we get a Republican into the 1st District congressional seat.”
Courtney acknowledged he’ll be seen as the dark horse in the race against the two-term incumbent Democrat, who carries a better than 10-to-1 advantage in campaign funds at the most recent report. But he said, “This congressional seat doesn’t belong to anyone but the people of Maine, and we’re going to make sure it stays in the hands of the people of Maine.”
Courtney described himself as a politician who will work to “unite instead of divide” if elected to Congress, a body gripped by what outgoing moderate Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe called “hyperpartisan” rancor.
“Our current congresswoman divides — she disdains Republicans,” Courtney, owner of a small string of dry cleaners, said. “I don’t disdain Democrats. I embrace Democrats. If I didn’t reach across the aisle and work with Democrats, I wouldn’t have been elected as a state senator in York County.”
The longtime state legislator also said he hoped to build on the surprise momentum built up by Calder, hailed in the primary aftermath as a rising political star.
“I’m thrilled,” Courtney said. “I’m going to be campaigning with Patrick Calder this summer, and that’s a great place to start.
“I never looked at this as running against Patrick, I looked at it as running against our current congresswoman,” he said.