BANGOR, Maine — State Sen. Emily Cain of Orono will be the Democrats’ candidate for the 2nd Congressional District.
Cain easily defeated state Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the rural northern district.
With 79 percent of precincts reporting as of 11 p.m., unofficial results showed Cain leading the race with more than 70 percent of the vote. Cain won both of the district’s largest cities: Preliminary tabulations showed Cain winning Bangor with 82 percent of the vote; in Lewiston, she won with 70 percent of Democrats’ support.
In the November general election, Cain will face Tuesday night’s Republican primary winner, former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin of Oakland, who defeated former Senate President Kevin Raye.
Election clerks offered mixed reports on turnout, which Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap predicted would be less than 20 percent.
Cain addressed her jubilant supporters at the Odlin Road Holiday Inn in Bangor around 10 p.m.
“Without you we wouldn’t be here tonight,” she said. “This is your victory. Together we will take the voices of Maine’s middle class to Washington, D.C.”
The race for the 2nd District was blown wide open when incumbent Rep. Mike Michaud, a six-term Democrat, announced he’d run for governor in 2014. Both Democrats and Republicans this year see potential to win the mostly rural, northern district.
Cain took little time Tuesday night to shift her attention away from the primary contest and toward the Republicans, who she said had a clear message for Maine people.
“No to raising the minimum wage, no to equal pay for equal work, no to the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change exists, no to a woman making her own health care decisions, and no to putting tax breaks for small businesses and the middle class ahead of millionaires and corporations,” she said.
National Republican groups, who are expected to invest heavily in a race that they see as a possible pickup in November, quickly took aim at Cain.
In an email sent Tuesday night, the National Republican Congressional Committee said Cain “will be a rubber stamp for [Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and all the problems in Washington.”
Cain was the Democrats’ first House minority leader in decades when Republicans took over the Legislature in 2010 and has led the powerful Appropriations Committee.
The primary asked Democrats what kind of politician they wanted to send to the Beltway: Cain, who works at the University of Maine’s Honors College, appealed to the progressive wing of her party by trumpeting her longtime support for abortion rights, the environment and same-sex marriage. She cast herself as a stateswoman, the candidate capable of working with political adversaries to reach a compromise and end gridlock.
“Maine’s middle class is struggling, and personality politics and dysfunction in Washington are only making things worse,” she said Tuesday night. “We need leaders who will stand together and bring the voice of Maine people to the table, and stay there until they get the job done. As a member of Congress, I will be that voice for Maine people who too often go unheard.”
From early in the campaign, conventional wisdom pointed to a Cain victory: She raised more than half a million dollars for her bid, compared with Jacksons’ roughly $290,000.
State and national groups fell in line to endorse her campaign, including groups supporting access to abortion, environmental interests, LGBT rights and a handful of labor unions.
Meanwhile, Jackson received more full-throated support from labor, including an endorsement from the Maine AFL-CIO. He cast himself as a champion for Maine’s workers and foe of big corporations.
At his Lewiston headquarters Tuesday night, a teary-eyed Jackson first thanked and then apologized to his supporters.
“I really appreciate you people, you know that’s how I feel,” Jackson said. “Obviously there’s a lot of disappointment for letting people down.”
“You didn’t let us down!” the crowd replied.
Jackson said he would be supporting Cain, “wholeheartedly.”
“I don’t want to see someone like Bruce Poliquin be our next congressman,” Jackson said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to make sure she is our next congressperson.”
Sun Journal state politics editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report. Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.