Jacqueline Sartoris has won the Democratic nomination for the Cumberland County District Attorney’s race.

And, with no Republican or independent opponents on the ballot, it appears Sartoris will take over the office following the general election in November. The only way Sartoris could lose the seat in November is if an opponent steps forward and mounts a successful write-in campaign.

Incumbent Jonathan Sahrbeck announced late Tuesday night he had reached out to congratulate Sartoris on the win. With the largest communities in Cumberland County reporting their results late Tuesday, Sartoris had 13,566 ballots cast in her favor, or 64 percent,  compared to 7,536, or 36 percent, for Sahrbeck.

Sartoris said Tuesday she looks forward to beginning her transition from Kennebec County, where she’s currently an assistant district attorney overseeing two of the district’s addiction treatment court programs, to becoming top prosecutor in one of the state’s largest and busiest prosecutorial districts.

“I’m so grateful tonight to my family, my campaign manager, and to all the volunteers,” Sartoris said. “A lot happened very quickly in this race … I think both campaigns adjusted to that really well.”

Weeks before the primary election, Sartoris got the support of an out-of-state political action committee financed with $300,000 from national Democratic donor George Soros. Soros has spent large sums of money on similar races around the country. The so-called Maine Justice and Public Safety PAC spent more $380,000 on advertisements supporting Sartoris, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

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Advertisements over the mail, television and social media focused on Sahrbeck’s switch to the Democratic party last fall. Sahrbeck won in the 2018 election as an independent and was a registered Republican for most of his adult life before then. The ads refer to Sahrbeck as a “flip-flopping” district attorney who “only became a Democrat just in time to run for re-election.”

Jacqueline Sartoris and Jonathan Sahrbeck

In an interview earlier this month, Sahrbeck voiced concern for the “precedent that’s being set by out-of-state money” in what is normally a low-budget election.

The PAC’s budget was about six times what Sahrbeck reported in his June 3 campaign finance reports. Sartoris, who said she had nothing to do with the Soros PAC and its advertisements, raised and spent nearly $20,000, according to her last disclosure.

On Tuesday, Sahrbeck said simply that he looks forward to helping Sartoris take over the office.

“While ultimately the outcome was not what my supporters and I wanted, I’m proud of the campaign we ran and the work we’ve accomplished together,” Sahrbeck said in a written statement. “As she officially moves into the role in the coming months, I will assist Jackie in the transition to ensure the best possible outcome for the people of Cumberland County.”

In Portland, the county seat, Sartoris received 4,415 votes while Sahrbeck received 2,540.

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Both candidates won in their respective hometowns. In Brunswick, where Sartoris lives, there were more than 1,700 ballots cast in her favor, three times what Sahrbeck received there.

Sahrbeck received 749 votes – nearly twice what Sartoris received – in Cape Elizabeth, where he lives.

SARTORIS WILL RUN UNCONTESTED

Sartoris will run uncontested in November because no Republican or independent challengers qualified for the ballot. A candidate could still mount a write-in campaign, but it would be a long shot, especially because the voter turnout will be much larger in November.

Cumberland County is one of Maine’s busiest prosecutorial districts, alongside York County where Democratic District Attorney Kathryn Slattery is running unopposed in both the primary and general elections. Prosecutors for Cumberland County had a little more than 5,000 pending felony and misdemeanor cases as of May 23.

As the entire state struggles to process a backlog of cases in criminal and civil courts, Cumberland County reported a 59 percent increase in pending felony cases from May 2019 to May 2022. The county reported a 46 percent increase in pending misdemeanor cases over the same period.

The Cumberland County district attorney currently operates with a $2.2 million budget from the county, covering salaries for about 30 county employees, programs in the office and supplies. The office also oversees 20 assistant district attorneys, all paid by the state budget.

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