AUGUSTA, Maine — After a ballot recount that lasted almost 5 hours Wayne Werts was declared the winner in the Maine House District 70 race Thursday.
Werts, the Democratic challenger to incumbent three-term Republican state Rep. Bruce Bickford, prevailed by four votes. The earlier unofficial results had Werts winning the race by two votes. Both men are from Auburn.
Unofficial results had Werts winning with 2,268 votes to Bickford’s 2,266.
Both men said their longstanding friendship would stand. Werts, the former fire chief in Auburn, and Bickford, a former city councilor, said they have know one another for over 20 years.
They also said several times Thursday, as officials and party volunteers worked to recount ballots, that while they belong to different parties, they were not political polar opposites. Both touted their moderate views.
“He’s a good guy, he’ll do really well,” Bickford said of Werts. “I plan to support him 100 percent.”
Throughout the morning, Werts and Bickford sat together and chatted as officials from the Maine secretary of state’s office along with volunteers from both the Republican and Democratic parties worked to recount ballots.
Both Werts and Bickford said the wait for the recount and a final outcome had been nerve-racking and they were both glad it was finally over.
They joked had they known it was going to be so close they may not have even run for the seat.
“I don’t know how you get it any closer than this,” Werts said. “It’s just incredible to me that it came out this close.”
Werts said that closeness of the race impressed upon him the importance of maintaining a moderate stance. He said the campaign for the seat was a tough one but always civil even through the recount process.
“Obviously we are going to disagree on some policy stuff, but I think Bruce did a good job, I think he was a good representative, people liked him, people trusted him and that showed the results.”
He canvassed the district, which covers parts of both Lewiston and Auburn, two times during the campaign, Werts said. He said he campaigned hard and even with that effort the close race was a “testament” to his opponent.
Werts also said his narrow victory would stick with him as he moved on to work with other lawmakers in Augusta.
“I was a moderate to begin with and this does nothing but solidify my stance,” Werts said. “People are tired of the ledge sitting, they want something done and that means crossing the aisle, that means compromise, that means negotiating and getting something done for the citizens of Maine and stop the polarization.”
Thursday’s recount was the fourth for the State Legislature this week. In all four the results from Election Day have withstood the challenge of the recount.
Wednesday incumbent lawmakers, Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, Rep. Melvin Newendyke, R-Litchfield and Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield were declared the winners in their respective races after recounts.
Volk represents House District 127, Newendyke House Distict 80 and Hayes House District 94.
Seven more recounts have been scheduled including Maine Senate District 17, which covers much of Androscoggin County. That race between incumbent Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls and Democratic challenger Colleen Quint of Minot was scheduled for Friday afternoon.