A Republican-led committee of seven Maine state senators with broad powers will take the lead in deciding the outcome of the Senate District 25 race between Republican Cathy Manchester and Democrat Cathy Breen.

Breen had the most votes on election night and is challenging a recount completed Tuesday in which Manchester was declared the winner. It is the first time in a decade that a recount has not produced a clear winner, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Wednesday.

After the 127th Legislature is sworn in Dec. 3, the newly Republican-led Senate will convene a committee of four senators from the majority party and three from the minority, Dunlap said.

The committee has wide latitude. It can select a winner according to the recount results, order a new election, examine all or some of the election materials – or, if it chooses, examine none at all.

“They can do whatever they want,” Dunlap said of the yet-to-be-named group of seven legislators.

The committee will make a recommendation that will be voted on by the full Senate.


The District 25 seat represents Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Gray, Long Island, Chebeague Island and parts of Westbrook.

Unofficial results from Election Day showed Breen, the Democrat, leading by 32 votes, 10,930 to 10,898. After the recount, Manchester was in the lead by 11 votes, 10,927 to 10,916.

Dunlap said late Tuesday that nine ballots were disputed by either or both candidates’ attorneys, and seven ballots were considered missing after the recount.

By midday Wednesday, one of the seven missing ballots was found in a bin of Westbrook municipal ballots, Dunlap said, and the remaining six were still unaccounted for.

Kate Knox, a Maine Democratic Party attorney present for the recount, said that according to her records at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, there were 10 fewer ballots in the recount – four fewer in Cumberland and six fewer in Westbrook – than on election night. Knox said she did not sign off on that evening’s tabulation, and requested that Westbrook be recounted.

No matter how many ballots are considered to be unaccounted for – six according to Dunlap, or 10 according to Knox – the total of potential votes in play, including the disputed ballots, is enough to change the recount outcome, Knox said.


“We want all the votes accounted for,” said Rachel Irwin, a Democratic Party spokeswoman.

Dunlap had heard nothing about the three additional ballots that Democrats allege are unaccounted for, and a Republican attorney, Josh Tardy, rejected the notion that there are more ballots out there.

“There’s so many ways that an election-night-reported result can in actuality be different (than the recount tally),” Tardy said. “Manchester is up 11 and the number of disputed ballots is nine. Our position is that because the number of disputed ballots is less than the margin of victory, the election for all intents and purposes is over.”

Further complicating matters is the question of which candidate will be seated in the Senate on swearing-in day. But after considering a combination of legal opinions by the state Attorney General’s Office, precedent and tradition, Dunlap said he would recommend that Breen be seated provisionally until the Senate committee completes its work.

Manchester, meanwhile, was confident that the result of the recount would stand.

“I’m thrilled with the results,” she said Wednesday by phone from Key Largo, Florida, where she was vacationing. “I’m looking forward to serving the people of Maine and I’m deeply grateful for all those who worked so hard through the recount.”


Manchester noted that she was apprehensive about entering the race in the first place.

“(Running for office) was not on my to-do list,” she said. “I had sent a resume up to Augusta to serve on the real estate commission. I was approached by the Republican leaders. I initially said no.”

After some soul-searching and discussions with her family, Manchester decided to jump in, and eventually received major backing from the Maine Republican Party, including intense negative advertising directed at her opponent.

Asked about the disputed and missing ballots, Manchester demurred, saying she knew about them, but “I have no information.”

“I’m confident in the results of the recount,” she said. “But the process will take place and I’m sure the people who are handling the situation will handle it well.”

A message left for Breen on Wednesday was not returned.

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