ELLSWORTH, Maine — In what is normally a political contest that flies well under the radar, the race for probate judge of Hancock County on Wednesday was too close to call.
Despite more than 27,000 votes cast in the contest, incumbent William Blaisdell was leading challenger Lynne Williams by only 203 votes, according to an unofficial count by the Bangor Daily News. Blaisdell’s preliminary vote total early Wednesday afternoon, with 40 of 41 voting precincts reporting, was 13,788, while Williams’ preliminary total was 13,585.
Late Wednesday morning, the two candidates’ vote totals had been separated by only four votes.
The job of probate judge is a part-time position in which the elected judge — who must be a licensed attorney in Maine and a Maine resident — rules on probate matters such as estates and trusts, adoptions and name changes, guardianship, and protective proceedings, according to information published on the state’s judicial branch website. Probate matters are considered confidential, rather than public, so they rarely receive public attention.
Blaisdell, who admitted to being “a little anxious,” said Wednesday that he did not expect the race to be close. He said that, given the current divisive political climate, the high turnout at the polls on Tuesday likely contributed to the narrow margin.
“It’s not a political position,” he said. “It kind of took on a life of its own.”
Attempts to contact Williams by email and phone on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Blaisdell, a Republican, is the latest attorney in his family to run the family firm Blaisdell & Blaisdell, which his great-grandfather founded in Ellsworth 1911.
Williams, a Democrat from Bar Harbor, is a former chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party who, in addition to her legal degree, has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Southern California. Her long list of clients over the years have included anti-war protesters, medical marijuana providers, same-sex marriage advocates, environmentalists and members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe who were charged with fishing for baby eels with a license.
Earlier this year, Williams told the weekly Ellsworth American newspaper that one of the reasons she was running for probate judge was “to make the guardianship process more family-friendly.” She said much of her legal practice has involved working with families and disabled family members, including children.
“I’ve struggled through the paperwork with them numerous times to get guardianship for them or conservatorship when they turn 18,” she told the newspaper. “It’s not an easy process.”