Editor’s Note: Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House will move to a bi-weekly distribution schedule beginning on June 15, 2012. We will resume our weekly distribution schedule when the Legislature convenes again in December 2012.
Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House that provides a high-level overview of recent activity at the Maine State House. If you would like more specific information regarding an item in this newsletter or related to government relations, please contact a member of our Government Relations Practice Group: John Delahanty, Andrea C. Maker, or Avery Day.
Primary Election Wrap Up
June 12th was Primary Day, largely setting the field for November’s election. As always, these elections provide us with a few data points, from which various conclusions are drawn.
Republicans chose Secretary of State Charlie Summers as their candidate to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Snowe. With little polling going into the election, there was much speculation as to who was ahead in this six-way race. Summers came away with a strong showing, capturing roughly 30 percent of to vote in this six-way race.
Democrats chose state Senator Cynthia Dill as their candidate to run this fall. Again, it was unclear who was in the lead in the four-way Democrat primary. Dill also came away with a strong showing, capturing roughly 45 percent of the vote in this four-way contest.
Tuesday’s winners will face former Governor Angus King and a handful of other Independent candidates that have qualified for the ballot in November.
There was a primary contest in the Republican Party in the 1st Congressional District between Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney and merchant mariner Patrick Calder. This was a surprisingly close contest, with Senator Courtney winning by less than 300 votes. Senator Courtney will face incumbent Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in November.
There was also a primary contest in the Republican Party in the 2nd Congressional District between Senate President Kevin Raye and naval retiree Blaine Richardson. President Raye was the victor in this contest, capturing 60 percent of the vote. President Raye will face incumbent Congressman Mike Michaud in November.
Voter turnout was extremely low on Primary Day. This was anticipated based on the small number of absentee ballots that were requested in the run up to Primary Day.
“Establishment” Versus “Grass Roots” Candidates
Further down the ballot, there were a few Republican Senate primaries that pitted current state Representatives seeking higher office against what might be termed “Tea Party,” “grass roots,” or “Libertarian” candidates. Some of these “grass roots” candidates had the support of a newly formed PAC that was an offshoot of the Ron Paul movement in Maine. Despite the Ron Paul movement’s ability to control this year’s Republican State Convention, this wing of the Party was unable to get any of its candidates on November’s ballot, as the “establishment” candidates won all of these Senate primary contests.
Another cluster of down ballot races of interest were in the Saco-Biddeford area, where an open Senate seat pitted two sitting Representatives against each other and three incumbent Representatives faced primary challengers. Adding to the intrigue, there were a number of independent expenditures in these races by outside groups. The results were uniform, with incumbents winning the primary contests and those who benefited from the independent expenditures losing their races.
With this data in hand, the pundits have drawn some conclusions.
The Republican Party appears to have turned away from the Tea Party/Ron Paul wing of the party and has voted for more moderate candidates. Secretary of State Charlie Summers’ victory and the victory of “establishment” candidates in the state Senate primaries have been held out as evidence of this. At the same time, the Democrat Party may have voted for the more Progressive wing of that party and against its more moderate candidates. State Senator Cynthia Dill’s victory and the results regarding the open Senate seat in the Saco-Biddeford area may be evidence of this.
Turnout did not show an “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats, as turnout was virtually the same between the parties. The low turnout, rather, has been interpreted to mean that there is a lack of enthusiasm for the party candidates for U.S. Senate. This may be a sign of either support for former Governor Angus King or resignation to the fact that King will likely be the victor in November.
Spending also did not appear to help candidates in the primary. Those candidates in the Saco-Biddeford area who were beneficiaries of outside spending were not able to convert this spending into votes. Moreover, an analysis of the primary races for the U.S. Senate seat has shown that the candidates who were best funded did not win. This could mean that Mainers do not like big money in politics but more likely means that in a primary race with low turnout, name recognition is more important than money.