SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine, celebrates her re-election with husband Thomas Daffron on Tuesday in Portland.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine, celebrates her re-election with husband Thomas Daffron on Tuesday in Portland.

PORTLAND

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree brushed aside their challengers to easily win re-election on Tuesday, but it was a different story in the race for the open seat in the 2nd Congressional District.

Collins, the last moderate Republican from New England in Congress, turned back a challenge by Shenna Bellows to win a fourth term.

She said the support she received from Republicans, along with Democrats and independents, showed that Maine residents want the parties to work together to find a middle ground.

“The two issues I heard over and over during the campaign were the need for more jobs and a stronger economy — and an end to the dysfunction and hyper-partisanship in Washington,” she said. “That was the uniform message I received.”

In the 1st Congressional District, Pingree faced little in the way of big-money campaigning by Republican challenger Isaac Misiuk and independent Richard Murphy.

In the 2nd District, voters were deciding a close race between Democrat Emily Cain and Republican Bruce Poliquin, who were competing for a seat that’s been in Democratic control for 20 years.

Poliquin is projected by the Bangor Daily News to have defeated Cain.

Poliquin, a former state treasurer, portrayed Cain as an inexperienced liberal who doesn’t understand Maine because she wasn’t born here. He also accused her of trying to take credit for Gov. Paul LePage’s tax cuts after fighting them.

Cain, a state senator, promoted her willingness to work with both parties while accusing Poliquin of being a candidate who’d contribute to partisan gridlock and of running a “divisive, nasty, negative campaign.” She also accused him of gaming the system to reduce taxes on his oceanfront property.

Also in the race was independent Blaine Richardson, a conservative Navy veteran. Richardson raised little money and trailed in the polls, but he stood to have an impact by siphoning votes that otherwise might have gone to Poliquin.

Pingree is a self-proclaimed progressive who represents the more liberal of the state’s two congressional districts. Two years ago, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed her to a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Collins, who remains popular in a state where independent voters make up the largest voting bloc, won early endorsements in her race from national groups that usually lean Democratic, like the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, and the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group. She also had a fundraising advantage.

It was the first run for elected office by Bellows, the former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

In the Senate race, more than 9 out of 10 Republicans voted for Collins, who also picked up nearly two-thirds of the independents and about a third of the Democrats, according to preliminary results of an exit poll conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and the television networks.

The poll of 949 Maine voters found that Collins also fared well among voters who disapprove of how President Barack Obama is handling his job and who think his health care overhaul law went too far.


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