AUGUSTA, Maine — The Tuesday election in Maine is mostly for local races, including mayoral contests in Portland and Lewiston that casual observers have probably heard about. But there are many more races in smaller areas or seats with themes that resonate statewide.
Reporters for the Bangor Daily News took a look at races that largely lie outside of Maine’s biggest cities. One is full of political oddities and others are part of larger conversations about affordable housing, marijuana and diversity in the whitest state in the nation. Here they are.
Vote-splitting could be an issue for three Democrats named Michael against one Republican in a race for Westbrook’s mayoral seat. Electoral quirks abound in this race in a city where a Republican could win Maine’s most powerful mayoral seat in a city where there are roughly twice as many Democrats as Republicans. In Westbrook, candidates can be nominated by party caucus or petition. Democrats caucused to nominate City Councilor Michael Foley, but incumbent Mike Sanphy and 2016 runner-up Michael Shaughnessy are also Democrats running against Republican Phil Spiller. Sanphy and Spiller have praised each other while Foley, Spiller and their allies have squared off with one another. Democrats’ mass could save the seat for the party, but the absence of ranked-choice voting or runoff may mean that their three established candidates could slice and dice the electorate for Spiller. — Michael Shepherd
Affordability is a focal point of a Rockland City Council race. Coastal cities and towns from Portland to Bar Harbor are dealing with different types of unaffordable housing markets. It’s a central theme of a Rockland race in which four candidates are running for two seats. Incumbent Ed Glaser and software developer Nate Davis say zoning changes and incentives for developers could increase the city’s housing stock and keep rental prices reasonable. Longtime Rockland firefighter Don Robishaw and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Ian Emmott want the city to have more of a say in the school budget to prevent property taxes from rising. — Lauren Abbate
Bar Harbor will consider formally allowing residents to rent out rooms in their homes. Residents of this tourist mecca have been renting out rooms to people on vacation for years, even though the practice technically has been banned by ordinances. On Tuesday, voters will decide on an ordinance to allow this for between five and 30 days at a time. It is just one way the town hopes to get a handle on the practice of renting out rooms and houses to people on vacation, which officials say is a significant factor in a town housing crisis marked by lack of employee housing and the demand for vacation rentals. — Bill Trotter
A few Maine cities and towns will vote on marijuana ordinances before the recreational market revs up next year. At least five Maine towns — York, Camden, China, Damariscotta and Rangeley — will have marijuana-related items on the ballot. The retail sale of marijuana is expected to begin in Maine this spring, but only about two dozen cities and towns have drafted the ordinances necessary to participate in that new market, according to the Maine Municipal Association. These towns are taking one of their last chances to draft rules before then. The most interesting of Tuesday’s questions may be in Rangeley, where voters will consider new rules ordinance after rejecting a different set in June. — Michael Shepherd
Elected bodies in the Bangor area could see racial diversity after Election Day. Maine is the whitest state in the nation. That has largely carried through to elected bodies. While many major cities in the southern population half of the state have elected minorities to local offices, it hasn’t happened much in the Bangor area. In Tuesday’s election, Angela Okafor, a Nigerian immigrant, lawyer and business owner, is one of 11 people running for four spots on the Bangor City Council. Marwa Hassanien, an Oklahoma native born to Egyptian immigrants, is one of four parents competing for two seats on the Bangor school board. Thailand native Soubanh Phanthay, a photographer who has lived in Maine since 1980, is one of three candidates for two seats on the Brewer City Council. Haiti native and nurse Tania Jean-Jacques is running to represent Hampden on the Regional School Unit 22 board. — Matthew Stone