A Maine Republican won a special legislative election for the first time in nearly a decade Tuesday, flipping a House seat in the Waldoboro area that was previously held by a Democrat.

Abden Simmons Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

And Republicans are giving credit to a surprising strategy.

The Republican National Committee attributed the win to an effort to boost absentee voting – a move that runs directly counter to more than two years of raising concerns about ballot stuffing, stolen elections and seeking to limit or end the practice.

Abden Simmons defeated Democrat Wendy Pieh on Tuesday for the District 45 House seat vacated by Rep. Clinton Collamore, a Waldoboro Democrat who resigned in February. Simmons won by a 121-vote margin, earning 52% of the vote, according to unofficial results provided by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Simmons took his seat in the House on Wednesday afternoon. His victory reduces the size of the Democratic majority in the House, but does not change the overall balance of power at the State House.

The RNC touted the Maine election victory in a statement Wednesday as part of a nationwide campaign called “Bank Your Vote.” The campaign is aimed at “supercharging Republican efforts to bank as many pre-Election Day votes as possible.”


“The Bank Your Vote campaign will encourage, educate, and activate Republican voters on when, where, and how to lock in their votes as early as possible, through in-person early voting, absentee voting, and ballot harvesting where legal,” RNC spokesperson Rachel Lee said in a prepared statement. “The results in Maine are proof positive that focusing on pre-Election Day voting will be critical to delivering Republican victories in 2024.”

Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, downplayed the notion that the party is suddenly embracing absentee voting, saying the party has been “pushing people in Maine to vote absentee for years.” He credited the RNC campaign for helping.

“Every election cycle and competitive election (since) I have been here we have run an absentee ballot program,” Savage said. “This recent program made us more competitive.”

Democrats have held an advantage in absentee voting in Maine. Last year, Democratic voters requested about half of the absentee ballots, while Republicans requested only a quarter of them.

Mark Brewer, a professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Maine in Orono, said the embrace of absentee voting in this special election doesn’t necessarily mean Republicans will drop their opposition to the voting method.

“I’m sure that in areas where it is feasible that Republicans will continue to try and limit/eliminate absentee and early voting,” Brewer said in an email. “But in places where these are entrenched and not going anywhere, e.g. Maine, they really have no choice but to try and use absentee and early voting to their advantage. If you can’t change the rule, you have to try and use the existing rules to your fullest advantage.”


Simmons prevailed in the first election since the Maine Republican Party changed leadership. Former state Rep. Joel Stetkis unseated Demi Kouzounas after a disappointing showing last fall. Kouzounas had been the party chair since 2017.

Stetkis, who vowed to focus on legislative races and grassroots organizing, framed the special election win as a referendum on Democratic controlled government in Maine and nationally.

“Mainers in this battleground district today said ENOUGH,” Stetkis said in a written statement. “Enough of the spending increases, enough of the extreme left-wing agenda in Augusta, enough of the broken promises. And they picked Abden Simmons to deliver this message.”

Money was also a factor in the race, with Republicans turning the tables and outspending Democrats, who have long held a fundraising advantage, in both candidate and outside spending.

Simmons was a traditionally financed candidate, spending more than $21,500, according to recent campaign finance reports, which do not yet include spending in the final two weeks.

Simmons also benefited from outside spending totaling $20,000, with the largest amount, more than $14,000, coming from the Maine Republican Party. The House Republican Fund spent $5,000 and the Maine First PAC spent about $900.

Pieh ran as a clean election candidate, spending only $3,000 of the nearly $15,000 she received in public funding with two weeks remaining before the election.

Democrat-aligned groups largely stayed out of the race, with the Democratic State Committee spending roughly $7,200, nearly half of which went to opposing Simmons, who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat last fall.

Simmons will replace Rep. Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, who resigned amid allegations of signature fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

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