More than $100 million in political spending has flowed into Maine’s federal races with three weeks to go until Election Day, a record-breaking total driven by the competitive U.S. Senate race.
The vast majority of that money has come from out of state in a highly nationalized political environment. The race between U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, House Speaker Sara Gideon and independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn has drawn more than $95 million. Both Collins and Gideon, who have set fundraising records, have raised the bulk of their money from people in other states, though Gideon has raised slightly greater share from within Maine as of June 30.
Outside super PACs and other groups have also poured more than $75 million into Maine, according to federal data, split close to evenly. Spending by nonprofit dark-money groups targeted Collins early in the race, but outside spending against Gideon has picked up in recent months.
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Polls so far this year have given Gideon a narrow lead over the incumbent Republican, though a Bangor Daily News/Digital Research poll last week found the pair within a point. The race will use ranked-choice voting.
A much smaller, though not insignificant, amount of money has also gone into the congressional race in the 2nd District, where U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman Democrat, faces a challenge from former state Rep. Dale Crafts. Outside spending in that race now totals about $2.5 million.
That sum is actually down from 2018, when the race between Golden and then-incumbent Bruce Poliquin saw more than $13 million in independent expenditures, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The decline in spending is likely attributable in part to Golden’s steady lead in the polls. The Bangor Daily News/Digital Research poll last week showed him leading Crafts by 18 points.
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Though the more than $100 million is a record for Maine, it still pales in comparison to other larger states with competitive Senate races. In Arizona, Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican, and her Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, have raised a combined $75 million as of June 30, nearly double the $40 million that Collins and Gideon have raised. In South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison, who is challenging Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, set an all-time record by raising $57 million in the third quarter of 2020, his campaign announced last week.