The race to choose a Republican nominee to challenge Democratic 1st Congressional District Rep. Chellie Pingree was too close to call at press time.

Political newcomer Patrick Calder of Portland held a 293-vote lead over Senate majority leader Jon Courtney of Springvale with a vote of 12,005 to 11,712, respectively, with 134 of 175 precincts reporting.

Calder credited his surprising performance to a strong grass-roots campaign and dedicated volunteers.

“I expected it to be close, but beyond that I didn’t know,” Calder said. “I think it says a lot about the attitudes of voters in general. They’re tired of politics as usual.”

Courtney said if he won, he would immediately launch a campaign to talk to people across the district.

“We’re going to find out what they think about what’s happening in Washington and what they think the solutions are,” Courtney said.

Dan Hobart of North Yarmouth said he voted for Calder because he heard the candidate speak a few times on the radio and liked what he had to say.

“I actually didn’t know a lot about that race,” Hobart said. “I figure the money’s behind Pingree anyway.”

Calder, 29, who is a cruise-ship engineer, ran as a political newcomer who wanted to be a voice for Maine’s working people in Washington, D.C. He’s also chairman of Portland’s Republican City Committee.

This was Calder’s second run for public office. In 2010, the Eastport native ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Peter Stuckey in House District 114.

During the campaign, Calder said Congress must consider ending foreign aid and should look for ways to reduce entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. He said he opposes the president’s health care law, tax increases on the wealthy, gay marriage and extending the nation’s debt limit. He would support a balanced budget amendment and legal access to abortion, he said.

Tony Payne of Falmouth said he voted for Courtney because he believes the candidate’s experience in the Legislature and as a small-business owner will be helpful in Washington.

“Maine and the nation need that kind of seasoned leadership,” Payne said. “Courtney has seen the spectrum of agendas that come before a legislative body and what it takes to find solutions.”

Courtney, 45, promised to show the same respect for Democratic colleagues in Washington that he has demonstrated for the last decade as a representative and senator in the Legislature. He said that’s what it will take to move Congress beyond ideological differences and find solutions to problems ranging from the need for more jobs to the high federal debt.

After Republican Gov. Paul LePage took office last year and the party gained majorities in the House and Senate, Courtney moved from assistant minority leader to majority leader. In that role, Courtney said he worked to reduce spending and taxes and to promote respectful bipartisan debate in the Legislature.

Courtney led the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform, which produced legislation to streamline Maine’s regulatory processes, promote business and create jobs. The bill won nearly full support in the House and unanimous support in the Senate.

On other issues, the Senate was divided under Courtney’s leadership. Courtney voted to repeal same-day voter registration and workers’ right to unionize at the former Decoster egg farm in Turner. He also submitted a non-binding joint resolution supporting the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline from Alberta, Canada, which prompted a day of partisan bickering in the Senate.

More recently, Courtney supported an $83 million reduction in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services budget, which eliminates MaineCare coverage for more than 20,000 people, cuts prescription drug coverage for senior citizens and reduces funding for Head Start.

Again, the Senate vote was divided along party lines.

During the campaign, Courtney said he opposes President Obama’s health care law and tax increases on the wealthy. He said he would support extending the federal debt limit, he said, “but only if we have some true reforms to deal with our nation’s debt.” He opposes gay marriage and abortion, except in cases involving rape or incest, or when a mother’s life is at risk.

Given such close results, a request for a recount is possible.

Under state law, a candidate who is the apparent loser and who desires a recount must file with the Secretary of State a written request for a recount within 5 business days after the election. The recount is held under the supervision of the Secretary of State, who shall allow the candidate’s representatives or counsel to recount the ballots. The candidate may not act as a counter of ballots.

If the percentage difference shown by the official tabulation between the leading candidate and the requesting candidate is 2% or less of the total votes cast for that office, a deposit is not required.

If the percentage difference is more than 2% and less than or equal to 4% of the total votes cast for that office, the deposit is $500.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.