May 13, 2012

Primaries first step in battle for power

Democrats hope to regain control of the House and Senate, but Republicans say the GOP is strong.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

BY THE NUMBERS

Total Democratic primaries: 24

Total Republican primaries: 17

Number of House members termed out: 24

Number of senators termed out: 10

Sources: Maine Republican and Democratic parties and the 2011 Senate and House Registers

PRIMARY RACES

TO SEE A complete list of primary races in Maine, go to www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming.html.

Although in other states, and at other levels, primaries can be nasty, Maine legislative primaries tend to stay positive, Grant said. The candidates focus on issues, and do the type of door-to-door campaigning that's essential to win a local race.

"There's no doubt in my mind a really well-fought primary is incredibly beneficial to the ultimate winner of that primary," Grant said. "They have a leg up, going in to the general" election.

That's because they talk to voters sooner, get their campaign operations going and recruit volunteers. Webster said a well-known community member can also help recruit new party members.

"Most often, people get their sister, brother and neighbor, and get them to join the party," he said. "They get excited. It's good."

Two years ago, Republicans won the trifecta of Maine politics -- the House, the Senate and the governor's office.

Although many expected Republicans to take the Senate, their win in the House took pundits by surprise. Republicans now hold a 77-72-1 majority in the House, with one vacancy, and a 19-15-1 majority in the Senate.

One wrinkle for Republicans this year is the emergence of Ron Paul activists, who took over the party's state convention last weekend by electing the convention chairman and a majority of the delegates.

Some party insiders say that the process used to select delegates did not follow party rules and that it's possible the Paul delegates won't get seated at the national convention this summer in Tampa.

If that happens, Paul's supporters will likely sit out the November election, which will hurt Republicans running for the Legislature, said Matt McDonald of Belfast, a Paul delegate to the convention.

"The local tea party and Ron Paul people just won't vote," he said. "They won't support local Republican legislators as much as they need to be supported to win. If they don't seat us, come November, Democrats will seat the House and the Senate."

Webster isn't taking that threat lightly. He said he will fight to get the Paul supporters seated at the convention. Although he called them "wingnuts" before the convention, Webster now says he values the energy they bring to the party and hopes they will get involved in legislative elections.

"They will be a huge help to us," he said. "I'm almost giddy about it."

It's unclear at this early stage how much money from national groups will come into the state to help determine the outcome of legislative races.

National groups such as the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee don't get involved in primaries, but the group is watching the state to see if its staff or money can make a difference in some districts, said spokesman Dan Roth.

Two years ago, outside money played a significant role in five Senate races. The Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Virginia, spent nearly $400,000 in the last two weeks of the campaign. All five Republican candidates who benefited from the independent expenditure won.

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said she's seeing energy among activists that she hasn't seen in the last 10 years. She's running for the Senate and does not have a primary opponent. She will face Republican Roderick Hathaway of Veazie in November.

"I think it's a good problem to have when there are a lot of Democrats motivated to run for office," she said.

State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: scover@mainetoday.com

 

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