Saturday, March 8, 2014
Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill took a step toward becoming Maine’s next U.S. senator Tuesday, winning their parties’ nominations to be on the ballot in November.
Next up: Angus King.
Summers and Dill will now face each other, as well as the popular former governor, in a general election with national ramifications. The race is expected to be one of the most expensive ever in Maine because it could help determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate between Republicans and Democrats.
Despite the high stakes nationally, election officials reported an unusually low turnout at the polls statewide Tuesday.
Summers, Maine’s secretary of state and a commander in the Navy Reserve, defeated five other Republicans by getting 30 percent of the vote, with 84 percent of voting precincts reporting as of this morning. State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin was second with 23 percent.
Poliquin did not concede the race, so Summers declined to declare victory Tuesday night. “I would say we are on a glider path to victory,” Summers said. “It does look like we are in the right spot.”
Among other Republicans, former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett had 18 percent of the vote, Attorney General Bill Schneider had 10 percent, state Sen. Debra Plowman had 9 percent and conservative activist Scott D’Amboise had 11 percent.
Dill, a state senator and a civil rights lawyer from Cape Elizabeth, defeated three Democratic rivals by collecting 45 percent of the vote, with 84 percent of the precincts reporting as of this morning.
Dill got strong support from southern Maine to edge out former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who had 35 percent of the vote.
“I think we’ve proven that you can run a campaign positively,” Dill said after claiming victory Tuesday. “We’ll be friends going forward,” she said, referring to the other Democratic candidates.
“To Angus King – bring it on, baby,” Dill said.
Democratic state Rep. Jon Hinck had 12 percent of the vote and businessman Benjamin Pollard had 8 percent.
The race to replace U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, could decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. It has drawn national attention to the state. Snowe, in fact, said in February she was retiring because of the hyperpartisan atmosphere in Washington.
However, the primaries did little to excite Maine’s Democrats and Republicans. The voter turnout was unusually low even for a primary election, which typically draws about 20 percent of registered voters.
The final turnout was not clear at deadline. Summers, whose office oversees elections, predicted a roughly 18 percent turnout after the polls closed.
Turnout was especially low in Portland, a Democratic stronghold. About 10.2 percent of the registered voters in Maine’s largest city cast ballots, according to Portland’s election administrator.
“I can’t imagine it being this slow at this point at any time in the past decade,” Bud Philbrick said around noon.
Neither Poliquin nor Dunlap had conceded as of midnight, even though The Associated Press had called the races for Summers and Dill.
Summers, a 52-year-old father of three from Scarborough, has made three unsuccessful bids for Congress. He ran for the 1st Congressional District seat in 1994, 2004 and 2008.
He said Tuesday that he plans to keep working as secretary of state while running in the general election.
Summers served in the state Legislature and worked for many years as the state director for Snowe. He emphasized his military experience and his understanding of veterans issues.
He campaigned against runaway spending and tax increases and said he supports a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He also said he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s health care reform law, if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t overturn it this summer.
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