Under The Dome: Inside The Maine State House Special Edition 8-28-13

by Pierce Atwood LLP
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Augusta, ME

Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House is a regular update 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.

Eloise Vitelli Wins Special Election for Senate District 19 Seat

Yesterday, the voters of Senate District 19 (Sagadahoc County and the Town of Dresden) elected the Democratic candidate, Eloise Vitelli, as their new state Senator in a special election. Senator-elect Vitelli fills a seat that was held by former state Senator Seth Goodall, who resigned at the end of this year’s legislative session to accept his appointment as New England Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Vote results in this race were known by 10:00 p.m. Democrat Eloise Vitelli received 4,621 votes to Republican Paula Benoit’s 4,339 votes. This race also included a Green Independent candidate, Daniel Stromgren, who received 357 votes.

Practically, this is a status quo election, with Senate Democrats retaining this seat and their majority in the Maine Senate with 19 of 35 seats. Of course, each Party have their spin regarding the results. Democrats believe that this was a big win for them, pointing out that Paula Benoit was the defacto “incumbent” in this race, as she previously held this seat and was seen to have more name recognition in this district. Republicans are downplaying Ms. Vitelli’s narrow victory, pointing to the fact that Democrats had to spend heavily in order to retain this Democratic seat.

Both Vitelli and Benoit ran as Clean Elections candidates and much has already been made of the fact that collectively, both parties spent over $150,000 in independent expenditures to try to influence this race. While spending by both parties was roughly even, Democrats spent more money on negative advertising, seeking to tie Benoit to Governor LePage. The Democrats Election Day get out the vote effort has also been discussed as a factor in yesterday’s win.

This race will receive plenty of analysis as it is one of a very few set of data points to draw upon between now and Election Day 2014. Expect this race to be cited in discussions of political spending, Governor LePage’s popularity and the 2014 Governor’s race in general, as well as predictions of legislative races next year. While this is a data point, it is possible to take too much away from a special election held in August with a turnout of roughly 30 percent.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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