AUGUSTA — The night kept getting better for Kevin Raye.

After the polls closed at 8 p.m., town after town reported that Republican voters favored Raye over opponent Blaine Richardson as their candidate for the 2nd Congressional District.

Final results were unavailable by press time, but with 58 percent of precincts reporting, Raye, 51, is the presumptive winner of the primary, with 61 percent of the vote to Richardson’s 39 percent. Raye will challenge Democratic incumbent Mike Michaud on the November ballot.

Raye, his staff and more than 30 campaign volunteers and supporters had gathered in a banquet room in the Ramada Inn to hear the results roll in, and celebrate a clear victory. The guest of honor credited fellow state legislators for lending both support and a voice to his successful primary campaign.

“I think my colleagues have recognized that I have the ability to build support among those folks who have been able to see what I do in office,” Raye said. “I’ve reached across the aisle. I’ve been constructive. I’ve been able to solve problems as opposed to the polarization and partisan shift we’ve seen in Washington.”

Tea-party affiliated Navy veteran Richardson, of Belfast, wasn’t ready to concede last night. Just after 10 p.m. with 56 percent of votes counted, Richardson said the election wasn’t over and he’ll watch returns until night’s end.

This year’s race marks the second time Raye, a self-described fiscal conservative, has faced Michaud for the district seat.

In 2002, Raye quit his 17-year tenure on U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s staff in Washington, D.C., for an unsuccessful bid against Michaud, who beat Raye by about 4 percent.

It was Michaud’s narrowest win for the district. In four subsequent elections, Michaud won handily.
Raye said demographics in the district have shifted in his favor over the past decade.

“Out of 19 state senators who reside in the district, 15 are now Republicans,” he said.

Campaign consultant Kathie Summers was part of Raye’s team in 2002 and this time. She said her candidate has the advantage this time around.

“One of the criticisms in 2002 was Kevin had just returned from Washington,” Summers said. “This time, he’s running as a small-business owner. For the past eight years, he has been writing paychecks. He knows how to create a friendly business environment in Maine.

Summers added that Raye is prepared to debate Michaud at any time.

Richardson, a self-described conservative Republican with libertarian leanings, campaigned on “as little government as possible.”

“The things that are going on right now are bordering on tyranny,” Richardson said last night as Raye led 8,638 to 5,567.

“Whoever wins, me or Kevin, we’re going to focus on getting the socialist, Mike Michaud, so he isn’t serving the country.”

Richardson said if he were to indeed lose to Raye, he wouldn’t be worried about running for elected office again.

“I’m a 30-year retired Navy captain. I’ve made my mark on the world,” he said. “I’ve got my Navy wings, two wonderful kids. I’ve made it.”

His platform included term limits for Congress, support for a balanced-budget amendment, reform of the tax code, a repeal of so-called Obamacare and a reduction in federal regulations.

“I don’t need a Department of Education to tell me how my kids need to be educated here in Maine, or a Department of Energy that does nothing,” he said during his campaign. “They’re just eating up the resources and producing nothing.”

Raye’s political experience spans nearly two decades. Since 2004, the Eastport native has served as a Maine state senator, and he currently holds the floor as senate president. On Snowe’s staff, Raye served as chief of staff from 1994 to 2001, and district director from 1983 to 1994.

Since 2005, the Bates College graduate has also owned and operated Eastport-based Raye’s Mustard, the only stone-ground mustard mill in North America. He lives in Perry with his wife Karen.

When the Portland Press Herald called the race for Raye with about 27 percent of the vote in, Richardson’s camp wasn’t ready to concede.

Matt McDonald, Richardson organizer, said “With only 4,000 votes counted, that’s a poor way to call a race,” he said, adding that the district’s “major cities” haven’t yet been counted. “They’re certainly wrong to rob citizens of those fine cities of their votes.”