PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a North Haven Democrat, came into Election Day a heavy favorite over two conservative challengers.

In three previous elections in the state’s left-leaning southernmost district, Pingree handily defeated three well-known Republicans: soon-to-be Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, businessman Dean Scontras and former state Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney.

In her fourth U.S. House race, Pingree is taking on political newcomers in young Gorham Republican Isaac Misiuk and Libertarian-leaning independent Richard Murphy from Sanford.

Misiuk, who celebrated his 26th birthday watching election results come in at the Portland Regency Hotel and Spa, is a former intern for Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The nontraditional University of Southern Maine sophomore also has held a leadership position in the Cumberland County Young Republicans and worked as a field organizer for the College Republican National Committee.

Murphy, 37, is a member of the National Guard and longtime construction worker who joined the race in part out of frustration with the economy and job market.

Neither one managed to move the needle of public sentiment against Pingree, 59, whose polling advantage seemed to just grow as the subdued campaign cruised toward Election Day, contributing to a popular sense of inevitability over her re-election.

In the most recent Pan Atlantic SMS poll in late October, Pingree was supported by 62 percent of the respondents, compared with 18 percent for Misiuk and 6 percent for Murphy. That lead is even greater than the race’s first poll in June, which showed Pingree holding on to 56 percent support compared with 21 percent behind Misiuk and no mention at all of Murphy.

Both opponents sought to portray Pingree, who is married to billionaire investor Donald Sussman and maintained a huge fundraising advantage in the campaign, as too wealthy to represent the interests of struggling Mainers.

But Pingree countered that her background as a small-business owner and single mom, as well as her voting positions in support of raising the federal minimum wage and expanding health care coverage through President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — measures which her conservative challengers opposed — proved otherwise.

Financially, Pingree collected nearly $400,000 in campaign contributions by the latest federal deadline of Oct. 15, much more than Misiuk’s $20,000 or Murphy’s $9,000. But Pingree, who political pundits repeatedly said was in no danger of an upset, didn’t take to the television airwaves until late in the process, releasing her first TV advertisement in late October, weeks after candidates in Maine’s more contentious races began buying up air time.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.