Town GOP chair quits after LePage-backed insurgent wins primary

Good morning from Augusta, where we still don’t know who the Republican nominee for Maine’s 1st Congressional District is and a different divide has led to the resignation of a party official.

Tyler Washburn, chairman of town Republicans in Bowdoin, said late Wednesday that he stepped down after conservative insurgent Guy Lebida of Bowdoin beat Republican state Sen. Linda Baker of Topsham by 40 votes in Tuesday’s primary.

Washburn, who supported Baker, echoed concerns from other Republican officials in a message on Wednesday, saying “I do not believe” Lebida “will be able to beat” Democrat Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic in November. Washburn said he wasn’t endorsing anybody and is “staying out” of the race.

Baker, a moderate, knocked Vitelli from the seat in 2014, but only after a Green candidate took 10 percent of votes in a district that leans Democratic by 3 percentage points. So, even if Baker won, this seat was going to be hard to hold in 2016.

But there’s no third candidate this time and Lebida ran hard against Baker’s voting record, telling the Lincoln County News that “some people run under the wrong party.” Baker countered by saying it’s “not a radical Republican district.”

Lebida was endorsed by Gov. Paul LePage, which stoked behind-the-scenes worrying from Republicans that he wouldn’t be able to win. After he did, the BDN changed that Senate district’s ranking from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.”

For his part, Lebida has rejected these arguments by saying he’ll present a clear contrast with Vitelli in November. But he’ll have to prove it, and if he doesn’t win, he and LePage will have to face questions about their tacks in the race.

“There will be a distinct choice between the two of us running for the seat,” he wrote on Facebook yesterday. “Let the people decide who they want.” — Michael Shepherd

Our voting irregularities, explained

Since Tuesday, you may have noticed a discrepancy in election results between the BDN and Portland Press Herald. I figured it might be helpful to explain this a bit.

Now, we have Mark Holbrook leading Ande Smith 10,336-10,280 in the Republican primary in the 1st District. The Press Herald has Holbrook up 10,345-10,287. It’s a small variation — we’re saying 56 votes; they’re saying 58.

The first thing you need to know is that these tallies are unofficial and come from results reported to each news organization by municipal clerks.

Also, totals have been revised since yesterday afternoon, when we had Smith up by 61 votes. We discovered some data entry problems, including giving Smith 369 votes in West Bath when he only got 36 and giving Holbrook 220 more votes in Saco than he actually got.

Those mistakes have been fixed. Also, neither newspaper has tallies for Isle au Haut, where a clerk couldn’t be reached yesterday. But based on what we think the margin is, the Knox County island can’t swing the election because it only had 14 Republican voters as of April.

We’ll likely know more by Monday. By Friday, clerks have to get results to the Maine secretary of state’s office, which will then tally them. If it’s still this close, the apparent loser can ask for a recount. Bet on that outcome. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Rep. Rick Long of Sherman has declared victory in the Republican primary in Senate District 2 over Presque Isle City Councilor Emily Smith. We have him up by 26 votes, with five small towns in Aroostook and Penobscot counties left to report, so this could go to a recount, too. Former Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter of Houlton, a Democrat, awaits the Republican nominee.
  • U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District, introduced a bill to shield a Woodland mill’s hydropower system from federal licensing rules — including maintenance of fish populations — that he says would cost it $1 million per year and called “overreach.” But the executive director of the Downeast Salmon Federation called the rules “very appropriate and standard protections of water resources” in an interview with MPBN.
  • U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, joined Senate Democrats’ nearly 15-hour filibuster urging action on gun control on Wednesday and Thursday, getting kudos from TBS host Samantha Bee, saying on Twitter that “you can talk to us all night.” The filibuster from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, ended after a reported agreement with Republicans to hold votes on measures that would bar those on terror watch lists from buying guns and mandating background checks on sales at gun shows and on the Internet. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • We have an update to the “Missed Connections” post from a “large burly gentleman with overalls and a limp” who was winked at by a “very tall and thin guy with a notebook and glasses” at the Cross Office Building cafe in Augusta before the thin man retreated into the State House press bureau. The new post is purportedly from a heartbroken admirer of the burly man.
  • An employee at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Scarborough inspired strong feelings from one man. “Single? I dont imagine you are,” he writes. “But from the second I saw you, I was in life!” I think he meant love. Allow Daryl Hall to tell you about it. — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.