Maine saw a mixed election on Tuesday as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden won here and President Donald Trump salvaged one of the state’s four Electoral College votes from the 2nd Congressional District.
Those Democratic and Republican splits played out in uneven ways in parts of the increasingly divided state. It led to fractured local elections won by fresh faces and marked by big changes in cities and more rural areas. Here are some of the state’s most interesting ones.
Rep. Chloe Maxmin (D) over Senate Minority Leader Dana Dow (R)
In Lincoln County, progressives were buoyed by Maxmin’s win over Dow, a businessman from Waldoboro who had never lost a general election before Tuesday. The freshman Democrat from Nobleboro took a gamble in opposing Dow after flipping a Republican-held House seat in 2018. She flipped the Senate seat this year with 51.1 percent of votes.
Maxmin, who graduated from Harvard University in 2015 and made a name as a climate activist there in an effort to get the school to divest from fossil fuels, gave rural Democrats a potential roadmap to winning rural districts by mixing calls for strong action on climate change with canny discussions of rural broadband and other infrastructure.
Sophia Warren (I) over Rep. Shawn Babine (D) and Annalee Rosenblatt (R)
Warren, of Scarborough, won 38 percent of votes over the Democratic incumbent and the third-place Republican challenger. She has a political background as a former intern for U.S. Sen. Angus King, a fellow independent, and did presidential campaign work for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
There has been a minor movement of independent candidates who have tried to gain clout in recent years but have mostly baked themselves into the party structure in one way or another. Warren ran a leftward campaign, calling for increased taxes on wealthy Mainers and climate action in a coastal but suburban district where she will have to earn staying power.
more on the 2020 election
Richard Evans (D) over Rep. Norman Higgins (I) and Chad Perkins (R)
In perhaps the most surprising legislative election of the night, a Democrat will hold the district representing Dover-Foxcroft and other towns in Piscataquis County, the most conservative county in Maine. Past that, Evans is a veteran and physician who will be just the fifth Black legislator ever sent to Augusta, the capital of the nation’s whitest state.
He needed some luck. Perkins and Higgins, a former Republican, split the right-of-center vote to allow the Democrat to snag the seat with just 35.7 percent of votes. Maine’s ranked-choice voting system does not apply to state general elections because of constitutional issues and Republican opposition to the method. It cost them here.
Jonathan Connor (R) over Rep. Jim Handy (D)
Behind Connor, an Air Force veteran, Republicans won a legislative seat in Lewiston for only the third time in 40 years in Tuesday’s election. While Lewiston is a historic Democratic stronghold, this district covering a large suburban swath of the city has been trending Republican in recent years.
It was enough to oust Handy, who barely won the seat in 2016 and barely held it in 2018 despite a long political history in the city. He served for 10 years in the House before in the 1980s and 1990s and another two years in the Senate after that. The seat will be competitive for a while.
Peggy Stanley (R) over former Maine Senate President Charles Pray (D)
Pray served as president of the Maine Senate from 1984 until 1992 and has remained involved in the state’s political scene since. His potential return to Augusta, however, was thwarted by Peggy Stanley of Medway, a first-time candidate with little online presence.
The seat — currently held by Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Millinocket, who has no close relation to Peggy — is one of several flipped by Republicans as they narrowed Democrats’ majority in the lower chamber in a traditionally Democratic area that is trending Republican.
Former Rep. Randall Greenwood (R) over Rep. Kent Ackley (I)
These two candidates have faced off several times before in the district covering Litchfield, Wales and part of Monmouth. Ackley, running as an independent, challenged Greenwood, then the incumbent representative, in 2016 and won by just over 300 votes.
Greenwood then ran for his old seat in 2018, but Ackley held off the challenge by a razor-thin margin of 16 votes. The Republican tried again this year and won by 59 votes. The contest was the second-most expensive House race in the state, attracting more than $25,000.
Green New Deal ordinance in Portland
Portland’s Green New Deal takes its name adopted from an ultra-progressive climate plan championed by national activists. Though its specific provisions are different from the national plan, Portland’s version shares the twin goals of environmental improvements and aiding the economically vulnerable. It is one of several successful referenda pushed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America.
The ordinance will require projects receiving at least $50,000 in public funds be built using up-to date environmental standards, including solar-ready or living roofs. It also increases affordable housing requirements for some new developments, and increases income limits for tenants who would be allowed to live in those units.
The question was strongly opposed by a range of groups, including the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, which argued it would make it more difficult to build affordable housing, and a political committee called Building a Better Portland, which received funding from the National Realtors’ Association. Mayor Kate Snyder and most of Portland’s city council members also opposed the ordinance along with the other DSA-led proposals.
Minimum wage increases in Portland and Rockland
Maine’s largest city and a smaller coastal town both voted in favor of minimum wage increases on Tuesday. Both Portland and Rockland favored measures to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the next few years. The ordinance in Rockland is only for businesses with more than 25 employees.
In Portland, employers will also be required to pay time-and-a-half during states of emergency, beginning next month if the coronavirus emergency remains in place. That means the minimum wage will be $18 per hour next month, the highest minimum wage of any city in the U.S. That jump could make for useful future economic studies on the extent to which a higher minimum wage reduces poverty or adversely affects employment.
Yusuf Yusuf for Portland school board
Yusuf, a mental health case manager who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia more than a decade ago, won an at-large seat on the Portland School Board in a three-way race. He ran on a platform that included closing the opportunity gap for minority and immigrant students and introducing universal pre-K.
A major issue in the race was the removal of School Resource Officers from Portland schools, which Yusuf and another candidate, Nyalat Biliew, supported but the third candidate, Stacey Hang, opposed.
George Lapointe over Maureen AuCoin for Hallowell mayor
Maine’s smallest city by area had the closest race on Election Day, with Lapointe edging out AuCoin by two votes in the mayoral race. Another 74 voters in the city of 2,300 left the mayor’s spot blank. Both AuCoin and Lapointe are city councilors in Hallowell. Lapointe is a former Maine Department of Marine Resources commissioner; AuCoin was interim city manager.
Lapoint, reached for his reaction Tuesday night, told the Kennebec Journal, “Dang, that’s close.” He added that race reflected that both candidates were passionate about the city’s future and said the mayor and city council would have to come together to confront impending challenges.