An incumbent Republican state senator barely held off a challenge from an incendiary lawmaker in one of three Tuesday legislative primaries won by candidates backed by Senate Republicans over those preferred by former Gov. Paul LePage.
Sen. Kim Rosen, R-Bucksport, received 51 percent of votes in a district covering Brewer, Bucksport and more than a dozen other towns in Penobscot and Hancock counties. Fourth-term Rep. Larry Lockman, R-Bradley, got 49 percent of votes. It was only a 78-vote margin, according to preliminary results reported to the Bangor Daily News by Wednesday morning.
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Their race was perhaps the most prominent of the eight contested Republican legislative primaries on the Tuesday ballot. Only one sitting lawmaker in either party — Rep. John DeVeau, R-Caribou — appeared to have lost their seat in Tuesday’s election.
Rosen has served three terms in the Maine Senate and four in the House and sits on the Legislature’s criminal justice committee. The Senate Republicans’ political arm spent more than $15,000 on mailers as well as digital and radio ads to support her in her race against Lockman. She will face former Brewer Mayor Bev Uhlenhake in a rematch of their 2018 race.
“I’m so excited,” she said Wednesday morning. “I have one more term left and so much left to do.”
Lockman launched his bid to unseat Rosen last year at a news conference alongside LePage. The arch-conservative agitator made headlines in 2018 over comments accusing Democrats of a “war on whites.” In letters to Maine newspapers from the 1980s and 1990s, he wondered why rape should be illegal if abortion is not and blamed the AIDS epidemic on liberals.
In a nearby district covering most of Hancock County, former state Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, easily beat businessman John Linnehan, a conservative Christian who also won LePage’s endorsement. Langley will face incumbent Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, who easily beat a former state representative two years ago.
In a third Republican primary, Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, edged out a challenge from former state Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley. LePage had endorsed Thomas, although he later indicated that he did not know Davis was running when he made the endorsement. The seat leans heavily Republicans and should be a lock for Davis in November.
At the polls in Brewer on Tuesday, Leslie Ohmart of Brewer said he voted for Rosen because he thought she had done a good job as a legislator so far, despite some of the attacks against her.
“We need more moderates,” Ohmart said.
The losses by Lockman, Linnehan and Thomas show the limits of LePage’s support when matched against candidates with legislative experience and deep ties to their regions. The former governor, who recently moved back to Maine from Florida, has heavily indicated he may run again in 2022.
Only one incumbent legislator — DeVeau — lost their seat Tuesday night. In House District 149 in Aroostook County, Sue Bernard, a former college administrator and spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, upset him and will face Democrat David White in November. She has a good shot at making it to Augusta in the solid Republican district.
The results of a primary in central Maine portend an interesting general election matchup. In House District 82, covering Litchfield, Monmouth and part of Wales, former Rep. Randall Greenwood appears poised for victory over Jeffrey Matthews, setting up a third contest with Rep. Kent Ackley, I-Monmouth. Ackley unseated Greenwood, then the incumbent, in 2016 and narrowly beat him a second time by just 16 votes in 2018.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Sue Bernard’s former occupation.