Democrat ousts incumbent Farnham in pricey Bangor state Senate race

 Incumbent Republican Nichi Farnham greets voters outside the Bangor Civic Center polling area Tuesday morning, Nov. 6, 2012. The contest between Farnham and Democrat Geoffrey Gratwick for the Maine State Senate District 32 seat has been the top funded Maine State Senate race in 2012.
Incumbent Republican Nichi Farnham greets voters outside the Bangor Civic Center polling area Tuesday morning, Nov. 6, 2012. The contest between Farnham and Democrat Geoffrey Gratwick for the Maine State Senate District 32 seat has been the top funded Maine State Senate race in 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 07, 2012, at 7:04 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The incumbent has lost in a key state Senate race in Bangor, according to unofficial results tabulated by the Bangor Daily News.

In District 32, which drew more than $450,000 in outside spending, Democrat Geoff Gratwick unseated one-term incumbent Republican Sen. Nichi Farnham. That outside spending almost doubled the next highest total in this year’s legislative contests.

Farnham acknowledged her defeat in a phone interview with the BDN. “I’d like to thank all the people who live in Bangor and Hermon for one term in the Senate and I appreciate their kindness,” she said.

Gratwick won with 8,837 votes (56 percent) to Farnham’s 6,995 votes, according to unofficial results tabulated by the Bangor Daily News.

During the campaign, Democrats also accused Farnham of violating campaign disclosure laws. However, the Maine State Ethics Commission found no illegal coordination between Farnham and the Senate Republican Majority political action committee.

“That race will go down as an example of some of the worst in Maine politics in that the Democrats continued to attack an honorable senator even after she was unanimously exonerated by a bipartisan ethics commission,” Maine GOP spokesman David Sorensen said.

“I wasn’t a fan of the tone of the race,” Farnham said. “I am proud of the campaign that my family and friends helped me run. I’m sorry it got lost in the other messaging.”

Gratwick did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Six hours after polls closed, many Maine Senate and House races remained too close to call to determine which party would hold majorities in the next Legislature. At 2 a.m., Maine Democratic Party chair Ben Grant said that Democrats believed they had won 17 Senate seats, with the possibility of winning races too close to call in Senate District 35, where Sen. Troy Jackson is fighting off a challenge from Republican Peter Edgecomb, and in Senate District 17, where Colleen Quint is attempting to unseat first-term incumbent Republican Sen. Garrett Mason.

Another key win for Democrats came in District 6, where Jim Boyle of Scarborough defeated Republican Ruth Summers, the wife of Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Summers.

But in Aroostook County, Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, who was first elected to the Maine Legislature in 1964, lost his re-election bid to Republican Allen Michael Nadeau in House District 1.

Incumbent Democrats Dawn Hill, Stan Gerzofsky and Justin Alfond won re-election to the Senate. Rep. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, won easily in Senate District 9.

Republican Gary Plummer beat independent Martin Shuer to pick up the Senate District 12 seat held for the past eight years by Democrat Bill Diamond.

Incumbent Republicans Roger Katz of Augusta and Doug Thomas of Ripley won new terms in the Senate.

Independent Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth apparently turned back a challenge by Republican Chris Tyll in Senate District 11. Woodbury could find himself in the position of tie breaker in the Senate if Democrats and Republicans split the chamber’s other 34 seats.

Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, the current speaker of the House, easily won re-election.

Independent Ben Chipman of Portland defeated former legislator Herb Adams, a Democrat, and Republican Gwen Tuttle to return to Augusta to represent House District 119.

Sorensen said Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, defeated Democrat Jean-Marie Caterina in House District 128. Environmental advocacy groups earlier this fall singled out Sirocki as the first Maine lawmaker placed on the League of Conservation Voters’ “Dirty Dozen” list.

Republicans also picked up two House seats in Augusta, with victories by Matt Pouliot and Corey Wilson, according to Sorensen.

This year’s high-stakes struggle to win majorities in the Legislature obliterated the record for outside spending. As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, the Maine Ethics Commission reported that overall outside spending on Maine legislative races topped $3.53 million, shattering the 2010 record of $1.5 million.

In 2010, Republicans swept to majorities in both the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate for the first time since 1974. Heading into Tuesday’s election, House Republicans held 77 seats, Democrats held 70 seats, unenrolled legislators occupied two seats and two vacancies existed. The Senate included 19 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one unenrolled member.

Reeling after the 2010 legislative turnover and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell’s third-place finish in the 2010 contest that sent Republican Paul LePage to the Blaine House, the Maine Democratic Party dedicated itself to regaining majorities in this year’s legislative elections.

“I think it’s a great night for the party,” said Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party. “We are seeing some really great results. I am confident we will pick up one or both of the houses.”

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