Politics

Maine State House of Representative: Party Gains and Losses 2012

Maine House
Seats held or lost by party

Democrat gain (Rep. loss/open seat previously Rep.)    Held by Democrat   
Republican gain (Dem. loss/open seat previously Dem.)    Held by Republican
Independent gain (open seat previously held by Rep.)    Held by Independent   
Click on the map for district information


Unofficial Results - Source: Maine House of Representative

November 24, 2012

How the Republican Party lost the State House

ANALYSIS: Effective spending by Democrats and regional dissatisfaction with Gov. Paul LePage contributed to a reversal of control in both chambers.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: LePage

Did your opinion of Gov. Paul LePage influence how you voted in state legislative races?

Yes

No

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File photo/The Associated Press

REPUBLICANS OUTSPENT IN KEY RACES

Money does appear to have played a critical role in key races that helped throw control of the State House to the Democrats, dealing a critical blow to LePage's ability to further his policy agenda. Democratic Party and political action committees significantly outspent their Republican rivals in the four Senate and 10 House races where a Republican incumbent was defeated, sometimes by jaw-dropping levels.

In some targeted races, Republican groups fought back strongly but were still outspent.

In Senate District 32 in the Bangor area, first-term Sen. Farnham's supporters were outspent $247,262 to $207,152, and she lost to challenger Geoffrey Gratwick by 12 percentage points. In a Waterville area Senate race, conservative freshman Thomas Martin lost his District 25 seat to Democrat Colleen Lachowicz by 5 points after his supporters were outspent by 27 percent.

In the Bangor area, third-party supporters of conservative freshman Republican Rep. Douglas Damon were outspent $21,589 to $13,367, or almost 40 percent, by those backing his Democratic challenger, John Schneck, who won the race 59 percent to 41 percent. Another conservative freshman, James Parker of Veazie, faced a $22,466 to $17,297 (or 23 percent) deficit against Aaron Frey of Bangor, who won House District 18 with 58 percent of the vote. Incumbent conservative first-term Rep. Susan Morissette lost her Winslow-area seat to Democrat Catherine Nadeau by 52 votes after her third-party supporters were outspent $21,436 to $16,311. In Freedom and Palermo, District 45 Rep. Ryan Harmon's supporters were outspent by a third; he lost the seat to Democrat Brian Jones by just 31 votes.

Those spending margins were likely critical in many races, according to Michael Franz, a Bowdoin College political scientist who studies the effect and efficacy of political advertising. "Where you have freshmen legislators or open seats, that money is going to make a big difference in these down-the-ballot races," Franz says. "Even at the $15,000 or $20,000 level (of campaign spending), there's a lot of learning that can be made by voters in these races."

But the Democratic money advantage was far greater in other contests where incumbent Republicans met defeat. Conservative three-term Poland Sen. Snowe-Mello lost her seat by 7 points to Democrat John J. Cleveland of Auburn after third parties outspent her supporters by more than two-to-one. Two-term Sen. Rector lost his Rockland/Thomaston area seat to Democratic Rep. Ed Mazurek by 6 points with a third-party spending deficit of nearly two-to-one.

There were more lopsided contests in the House. In Augusta's District 58, supporters of another conservative first-termer, Karen Foster, were outspent nearly 2-to-1 by those backing Democrat Lori Fowle, who won by 10 points. In Phippsburg, District 64 incumbent Kimberly Olsen -- also a first-termer -- faced a more than 2-to-1 disadvantage in third-party spending and lost 54 percent to 46 percent to challenger Jeremy Saxton. Conservative freshman Rep. John Picchiotti confronted an over 12-to-1 disadvantage in defending his District 84 seat around Fairfield; he lost by 6 points to Democrat Karen Kusiak.

And those are the relatively fortunate ones. In Gorham, moderate two-term Republican Rep. Jane Knapp had a 16-to-1 third-party spending disadvantage against challenger Andrew McLean and lost 62 percent to 38 percent. Tea party firebrand Beth O'Connor lost the District 156 House race 52 percent to 48 percent to Democrat Joshua Plante; the first-term legislator's supporters were outspent by more than 22-to-1. For moderate freshman Bradley Moulton -- defeated by Paul McGowan by 8 points in the Ogunquit/Wells area -- the ratio was 23-to-1.

FUNDING SOURCES

The Democratic expenditures came from a variety of sources and were channeled through both party and political action committees. The biggest players included the various national Democratic Party organs, which invested about $1 million in Maine's State House races; the National Education Association and its state affiliate, which committed nearly $500,000; S. Donald Sussman of North Haven (about $400,000); and the state employees union (over $200,000). Sussman is the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.

The big Republican side expenditures originated with the Virginia-based Republican State Leadership Committee (about $800,000); Southport summer resident Ed Bosarge ($150,000); and Oppenheimer and Co., a New York-based investment firm ($110,000).

Sources aligned with both parties said Democrats likely benefited from the presidential race and the same-sex marriage ballot initiative, both of which are thought to have bolstered liberal turnout.

"In my district, the negatives for Gov. LePage and the positives for Obama were very high, and we were one of three counties that voted last time in support of marriage equality," Rector said. "That doesn't bode well for moderate Republicans like myself."

Obama won every Maine county save Piscataquis, while the marriage initiative passed with 53 percent of the vote, with support generally strongest in the regions where Republican legislative incumbents lost.

Because of this, Thibodeau is upbeat about Republican prospects next time around. "The top of the ticket had races we came up short on," he says. "We think in 2014 it will be a very different outcome."

Staff Writer Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@mainetoday.com

 

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Today's poll: LePage

Did your opinion of Gov. Paul LePage influence how you voted in state legislative races?

Yes

No

View Results

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