June 22, 2018
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John Martin loses; Gratwick wins pricey state Senate race in Bangor

By Robert Long, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — 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.

Early Wednesday morning, Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, told the BDN that Martin had informed him that he believed results from two towns with outstanding vote totals could not cut deep enough into Nadeau’s lead to swing the race.

Reached by phone early Wednesday morning, Nadeau said he wanted to wait to comment until all ballots had been tallied. Martin criticized the influence of outside money on the election.

“If you throw enough mud around, some of it’s going to stick,” Martin said. “I’m really not surprised by all of this. I think money has now infiltrated legislative races to the point where money will be buying legislative seats in Aroostook County.”

“This whole night has been full of anomalies, but this is one upset that was bound to happen after decades of Democratic rule in the Eagle Lake region,” David Sorensen, a Maine Republican Party spokesman, said. “ [A Republican] winning in John Martin’s district shows there’s a lot of discontent with Democrats that a lot of people didn’t see.”

Martin served as speaker of the Maine House of Representatives from 1975 to 1994.

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., 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.

One key race — Senate District 32 in Bangor and Hermon — went to the Democrats, according to Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen.

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.

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,” 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.”

“I’m delighted, “ Gratwick said Wednesday. “I feel very proud of the literature we put out under my name. This is an election in which the people of Bangor and Hermon looked past all the horrendous negative advertising and have chosen a different direction for their legislative delegation.”

Gratwick said he would make campaign finance reform a priority when he arrives at the State House.

“This election points out the terribly destructive role of outside money on local politics,” he said. “Money that has no traced source is going to destroy our democracy. I take this seriously and one of my goals will be to change this process.”

The money spent on political advertising “could better be spent on many of the things our local communities need,” he said.

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.

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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