Former state Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, delivers a keynote speech at a 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast Celebration in Orono. He won a Maine Senate seat in a special election on Tuesday. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — Former state Rep. Craig Hickman kept a capital-area Maine Senate district in the Democratic column in a blowout special election victory on Tuesday over a Republican businessman.

Hickman, a 53-year-old farmer from Winthrop who served four House terms through last year, won 62.6 percent of votes to 37.4 percent for Will Guerrette of Pittston. The Bangor Daily News and Decision Desk HQ, its national election results partner, called the race at 8:48 p.m. Democrats will keep a 22-13 majority in the Senate after Hickman’s victory.

“I just have faith in people and I feel like if I can communicate who I am and where I come from and what I stand for, I think that people will support me and they did,” he said late Tuesday.

The seat became vacant after Democrat Shenna Bellows refused to be sworn in after being nominated in December for secretary of state after winning a third Senate term. Maine Senate District 14, which includes southern and western Kennebec County from the Gardiner area to the Winthrop Lakes Region, is a top swing district won in 2016 by former President Donald Trump, a Republican, but taken in 2020 by both President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican.

Bellows first wrested the seat from long-term Republican control in a three-way race in 2016 and weathered only middling electoral challenges in her next two races. Late last year, Hickman quickly consolidated Democratic support for the nomination and faced no opposition by the time it was time for his party to pick a candidate.

The senator-elect cut an interesting figure in his time in the House. While he ran a progressive campaign for secretary of state last year, he voted against strict gun-control measures and sponsored a first-in-the-nation food sovereignty bill signed into law by former Gov. Paul LePage, an arch-conservative Republican who singled Hickman out for praise in a speech.

Hickman, a Milwaukee native who is the adopted son of a Tuskegee airman and a Harvard University graduate, will be only the second Black person to serve in the Maine Senate after John Jenkins, a former mayor of Lewiston and Auburn who died last year, and the first one to serve in both legislative chambers. He will be sworn in early Wednesday.

The race between Hickman and Guerrette was a straightforward but expensive one. Outside groups dumped more than $200,000 into the district on top of the spending between the candidates. Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Guerrette last week over a lack of disclosure on an electronic sign, but the Republican was not penalized by a state watchdog.

In-person turnout was light in the Democratic stronghold of Hallowell on Tuesday evening, when Laura Donovan said she voted for Hickman because she liked his views on the environment, an issue that “greatly concerns” her.

BDN writer Caitlin Andrews contributed to this report.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...