BANGOR —Democrat Emily Cain has won her party’s nomination for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, the Associated Press is projecting, while Bruce Poliquin is leading Kevin Raye for the Republican nod.
Most polls were open today in Maine through 8 p.m. across the district, comprised basically of the state’s expansive, northern population half.
Early reports are that turnout was low in the primary election statewide, but that was expected.
On Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said between 13 and 15 percent of Maine’s voter-age population was expected cast ballots by 8 p.m., in line with what he projected last week.
Turnout was light but steady in the 2nd District stronghold of Lewiston for most of the day, according to City Clerk Kathy Montejo. She expected about 2,000 people to vote by 8 p.m., which would be a little less than 10 percent of registered voters.
In the afternoon, Bangor City Clerk Lisa Goodwin said 2,157, or about 10 percent, of Bangor’s registered voters had showed up. She predicted that 15 percent of voters could show up by 8 p.m.
Turnout, or lack thereof, will be a key factor — particularly in the Republican race, said Sandy Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, and Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine.
Since Poliquin is well-liked by many on the far-right of the party who tend to be more active primary voters than moderates, their idea is that a low-turnout electorate would be more comprised of his supporters than Raye’s.
In a Monday email, Maisel, a Democrat, guessed that Raye may not be able to win if turnout doesn’t go above 20 percent in the district by day’s end. Brewer agreed, saying “heavy turnout is Kevin Raye’s friend; low turnout is Bruce Poliquin’s friend.”
Cain, a state senator from Orono, is favored to win the Democratic nomination. Last week, an environmental group that endorsed her released a poll showing her 35 percentage points up on Jackson, the Maine Senate majority leader from Allagash.
But the Raye-Poliquin race is harder to call. There has been no public polling, and the campaigns have conceded that the election would be tight.
“The voters will decide at eight o’clock,” Poliquin said Tuesday morning while shaking hands with voters alongside Raye at the Cross Insurance Center, Bangor’s polling place. “It’s going to be close — very, very close.”
Raye said he has had “a great past 10 days on the road” and feels good about his chances.
“I’ve been in every county and it’s been energizing and encouraging,” he said.
Raye, a former Maine Senate president from Perry, has run on a record of getting Republican reforms passed without alienating Democrats, while Poliquin has said he’s the true fiscal and social conservative in the race.
Cain split her election day time in the Lewiston and Bangor areas, while Jackson has been mostly in the southern part of the district, around Lewiston. All candidates besides Jackson will hold parties with supporters in Bangor, while Jackson will be in Lewiston.
When Cain stopped in Orono to vote at the town office Tuesday, she said she has received a lot of support district-wide. But even with a polling lead, she was cautious, saying “elections aren’t over until the votes are counted.”
“When you run an election, you want to make sure when the polls close you’ve done everything you can to connect with the people in your district,” Cain said. “And I know when the polls close tonight that we did everything we could have.”
When Jackson, a logger, arrived to greet voters at Longley Elementary School in Lewiston, early Tuesday evening, he looked tired, saying he was greeting workers at a Rumford paper mill at 3:30 a.m.
One way or the other, Jackson said he’s ready for the primary to be over.
“I just want to know what I’ll be doing tomorrow,” he said. “If it doesn’t go my way, I’ll probably be cutting wood.”
Republican Donna Twombly was the sixth voter at the polls in Pittsfield on Tuesday morning. She said she voted for Raye because he is more moderate than Poliquin.
However, she said she has stopped voting for Republicans in general elections and said she probably won’t stay with Raye when he takes on Cain or Jackson in November.
By 7:30 p.m., only a few supporters had arrived at the Cain’s election party at the Holiday Inn in Bangor. Greg Gilman, 61, who appeared in one of Cain’s commercials, was at the party with his family from Enfield.
He said he met Cain when his son, Aaron Gilman, ran for the Maine House of Representatives in 2012, losing to Republican Jeffery Gifford.
“She’s young, energetic,” Gilman said of Cain. “There are a lot of good qualities, and she actually worries about people and how to benefit them in the years to come.”
Among the dozen or so supporters at Poliquin’s party by 7:30 p.m. at Dysart’s restaurant in Bangor was Simone Engelhardt, chairwoman of the Pittsfield’s GOP committee.
While she said will ultimately support the Republican who prevails in the primary, she supports Poliquin because of his more conservative stance on abortion rights than Raye.
“Bruce represents pro-life and that’s important to me,” Engelhardt said. “His conservatism is proven.”
Portland Press Herald reporter Eric Russell contributed reporting from Lewiston and Morning Sentinel reporter Jesse Scardina and Kennebec Journal reporter Paul Koenig contributed reporting from Bangor. This story will be updated.
Michael Shepherd — 370-7652