AUGUSTA, Maine — Republicans narrowly preserved their Maine Senate majority Tuesday and, barring results overturned by recounts, will hold an 18-17 advantage over Democrats, according to Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport.
Democrats won a majority in the House, but it will be thinner than during the past two years.
Thibodeau, who narrowly won his rematch against Democrat Jonathan Fulford for the Waldo County Senate seat, said Wednesday morning that despite several towns not yet having reported their election tallies, there is little question about the 18-17 balance.
“For the first time since 1980, and despite being outspent, Senate Republicans have held the majority for two election cycles in a row,” Thibodeau said. “People are interested not in partisan bickering but how we’re going to to make our state a better place. They put their trust in people that they thought were more interested in fixing our state rather than some folks who have a very long history of being part of the partisanship.”
While Democrats picked up two Senate seats in Aroostook County, Republicans ousted incumbent Democrats John Patrick of Rumford and Chris Johnson of Somerville.
Republicans appear to have made a small gain in the House of Representatives. On Wednesday afternoon, representatives for both parties agreed that Republicans had secured 72 seats.
Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman Katie Baker said Democrats have retained the House majority, 76-72 with two independents. She said one race, the District 121 race between Democrat Robert Duchesne and Republican Gary Drinkwater in the Hudson area, was too close to call.
Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett called 2016 a historic year for Republicans.
“We are delighted that Maine voters have re-elected the Republican majority to the Maine Senate and added to our numbers in the Maine House of Representatives,” Bennett said Wednesday in a written statement.
“As I have said often, the privilege of governing we have earned from Maine voters is a sacred trust and a high responsibility,” he said. “With our quality candidates and our reform agenda to bring greater prosperity and hope to Maine people, Republicans will continue to work hard to merit the faith placed in us.”
Maine Democratic Chairman Phil Bartlett acknowledged that Tuesday was a difficult day for Democrats across the country.
“Here in Maine, we bucked the national trend by winning a majority in the House, increasing our numbers in the Senate and re-electing Chellie Pingree and winning many down-ballot races,” Bartlett said in a written statement. “Maine Democrats will continue to stand up to racism, xenophobia and misogyny. We will continue to fight for workers’ rights, LGBT rights, voting rights and women’s rights. We continue to believe that our state and our country are stronger when we celebrate diversity and build a future that everyone has a stake in.”
The balance of power in the Legislature has everything to do with what we can expect out of Augusta in the next two years, which are the final two years of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s tenure. LePage not only needed Republicans to take the majority in the House, where Democrats have held a 78-69-4 lead over Republicans and independents, he needs two-thirds majorities to make Democrats irrelevant in votes on emergency legislation and budget bills.
Maine voters have swayed legislative majorities back and forth under LePage. Republicans took both chambers when LePage was first elected in 2000, but Democrats retook the majorities in 2012. Republicans won the Senate in 2014, creating split majorities that currently exist.
Aside from the dynamics between the executive and legislative branches, the balance of power in the Legislature will have major repercussions for Maine’s constitutional officers, which include the attorney general, the secretary of state, the state treasurer and state auditor. Those positions are elected by the new Legislature in December, and many Republicans, including LePage, have spent the past few years on the attack against Democrats in those positions, including Attorney General Janet Mills and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.
The results in all legislative races are unofficial, with recounts likely in a number of races.