BIDDEFORD — Ryan Fecteau knocked on the door of every registered Democrat in his district and shook hands with most of the independents. If there were still voters in Biddeford who didn’t know his name, it was not for lack of trying.

Still, he was at the polls by 6:45 a.m. Tuesday.

His strategy was simple: Say hello to as many voters as possible. It was too late for a pitch. This was all about last-minute smiles.

“Hi. Ryan Fecteau,” he said, reaching for a voter’s hand. “Thank you for voting.”

“Have a good day,” he said to another.

He hoped to become the youngest member of the Maine Legislature at age 22. Odds were on his side. His district leans heavily Democratic. But, as a first-time legislative candidate, he wasn’t taking chances. Politics is a game that can be decided on long-standing political relationships. Newcomers like Fecteau often rely on hard-won face time with constituents. On Tuesday, he was ready to see whether the many hours he spent meeting voters had paid off, but not before greeting a few more.


He took a vacation day from his job at TrueLine Publishing in Portland. He dressed for the chill, with heavy slacks, plaid shirt and a neat down vest. He opened doors for voters, introduced them to mutual friends and made himself as accommodating as possible, even once apologizing to a woman frustrated by a lack of convenient parking.

“Thank you for bringing it to our attention,” he said, “and we’re sorry for the hassle.”

From 7 a.m. until the polls closed at 8 p.m., except for an afternoon break when Fecteau had a doctor’s appointment, he spent all day saying hi, shaking hands, giving hugs and listening to stories.

His mother brought the coffee.

Tuesday marked the conclusion of a campaign that led him back from college to the streets of his city. It started with a contested spring primary and continued with a spirited fall campaign against Republican Debi Davis.

In a district of 10,000 people, he met a third of them. He wrote letters, exchanged emails or had something more than a passing conversation with 1,000 likely voters.


Fecteau took notes. When someone told him something that resonated, he entered the topic and the constituent’s name on a spreadsheet. When he gets to Augusta, he knows who he’ll call when he wants input.

“I may not remember everybody’s name,” he said. “But I remember their faces, and I remember their stories.”

In all, he spent about $7,000 campaigning – about a dollar per voter.

On Tuesday, nearly 8,000 people came to the polls in Biddeford, one after another, and in waves that began in the chill of the morning, continued through the afternoon’s early-dark and concluded in the quiet still of a November evening. Fecteau must have said hi to nearly all of them.

By 8 p.m., he was tired. He had long since changed out of his boots and into a pair or running shoes.

But he kept his smile sharp.


“Hi, Ryan Fecteau,” he said to the evening’s final voters. “Thanks for coming out tonight.”

In the end, his work paid off. A few minutes after the polls closed, he got the word he hoped to hear: He had won his first big election, convincingly.

Fecteau received 2,474 votes to Davis’ 1,206. He was going to Augusta.

In a quiet moment before the celebration, Fecteau admitted to feeling relieved. “It’s been a long campaign,” he said.

He celebrated with Biddeford Democrats after the polls closed, then made his way north to the Portland party for Mike Michaud.

His work had begun.


Fecteau decided to run for the House because he wanted to make sure young people had a voice in Augusta. “I think folks are looking to young people for leadership on all the important issues,” said Fecteau, who also may have become the youngest gay legislator in the country. “I think people want new ideas and new blood.”

He grew up here, graduated from high school in 2010 and went away to college at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Most people assumed he would not come back. Most kids who leave don’t.

Instead, Fecteau pocketed his diploma in May and moved in with his mom and stepfather, in a familiar home on Herring Avenue Extension.

“There are a lot of opportunities in Washington, especially for someone with a degree in political science,” he said. “But I definitely wanted to come back. This is the community I care about.”

Fecteau isn’t entirely new to politics. He won a seat on the city Charter Commission a few years ago while still in college and represented his peers as a student member of the school board when he was in high school, although that post was appointed.


With this election behind him, he’s ready for a new conversation.

His youthfulness might have been a talking point during the campaign, but that’s an old story now.

He learned something during the campaign: Age doesn’t really matter. The issues that are driving young people out of Maine are the same issues that are making it harder for older Mainers to stay in their homes, he said.

“It’s all about the wallet,” Fecteau said.


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