A group of prominent Maine Republicans including former Gov. Paul LePage is quiet as the party faces an internal battle over how closely members should tie themselves to President Donald Trump amid his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Dozens of Republican members of Congress plan to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s election when lawmakers formally certify the election results on Wednesday. The move is certain to fail, but many worry it could erode confidence in elections as the outgoing president cast doubt on the 2020 race despite no evidence of widespread fraud or malpractice.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is among the prominent national Republicans to reject challenges to the election results, saying Biden is the legitimate winner. But in Maine, Collins has largely stood alone in her party with that sentiment as other leading Republicans have eschewed weighing in definitively on an issue that has divided the party.
Collins, who won reelection in a hotly contested race last year, congratulated Biden on his victory shortly after major news outlets called the race. She and Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, were part of a bipartisan group of senators who issued a statement this weekend declaring the 2020 election “over” and criticizing an effort from at least a dozen senators to challenge Biden’s victory during Wednesday’s certification.
“At this point, further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election are contrary to the clearly expressed will of the American people and only serve to undermine Americans’ confidence in the already determined election results,” the senators said.
State and federal officials, including former Attorney General William Barr, a Republican, have said there is no evidence of widespread election meddling or fraud. That has not dissuaded Trump, who in a weekend phone call asked the Georgia secretary of state if he could “find” more Republican votes, or ardent Trump supporters who continue to claim widespread fraud.
The Maine Republican Party initially aligned itself with Trump, declaring a few days after media outlets called the race for Biden that the election was “far from over.” The party also encouraged donations to the Trump campaign for a purported legal defense fund. But it has been mostly mum over the past six weeks as the president lost dozens of court battles in contested states.
Some of the president’s Maine supporters have stuck with him. Nick Isgro, the outgoing Waterville mayor and the state party’s vice chair, said during a segment with conservative radio host Mike Violette on Monday that he did not think Trump should leave office and hoped evidence would be presented on Wednesday showing election fraud.
“I don’t think there’s any circumstance right now where he should step out of office,” Isgro said.
Isgro was critical of Republicans — including Collins — who have said the election is over, characterizing them as “the enemies.” Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas and the party’s executive director, Jason Savage, did not respond to inquiries Monday about whether Isgro’s views represented the party and if they considered the election to be over.
Violette, who said he is doubtful of Biden’s victory, said the silence from Republican leaders on the issue was notable. He thought a statement from LePage or a politician of similar stature could help boost the case that there was significant election fraud.
“We haven’t had anybody at a high level in the state take a stand,” Violette said.
A spokesperson for LePage, an early supporter of Trump who has indicated plans to run for governor again in 2022, declined comment on the election results on Monday. Other top Republicans sidestepped questions. House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, issued a statement saying lack of confidence in election results was a serious issue and called for increased transparency.
“Every elected official and every election official should support using any and all means possible to verify the veracity of election results across our country, whether it be for a municipal, county, state, or federal elected official,” Dillingham said.
Former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican who represented Maine’s Trump-backing 2nd District from 2015 to 2019, told Violette on Monday that there were “real questions” about the voting process, but that an effort by lawmakers Wednesday to block the certification of results was futile and Biden would be seated as president on Jan. 20.
“There needs to be a majority vote in the Senate and a majority vote in the House to not certify these results and the votes just aren’t there,” Poliquin said.