Picking up the pieces after a strange Election Day in Maine

Good morning from Augusta, where the primary election is over but many of the results remain unclear. In addition to a number of legislative primaries in limbo because some municipal election clerks have not yet reported their results, Democrats will have to wait for news on their nominees to run for governor and the 2nd Congressional District.

Meanwhile, Republican Shawn Moody marched to an easy victory over three rivals and is in general election mode while the Democrats wait for the ranked-choice voting tallies. It was a strange, groundbreaking night in Maine’s political universe. Here are a few quirks, oddities and observations from your bleary-eyed Daily Brief team.

An attorney who is suspended from practicing law won his primary to to run for district attorney in Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford counties. Attorney Seth Carey, whose law license is currently under suspension because of sexual abuse allegations against him that led the Maine Republican Party to denounce him, defeated former Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Alexander Willette in the Republican primary and will face off against District Attorney Andrew Robinson, a Democrat.

Complete voting results in the district have not yet been reported but Willette conceded the nomination in social media posts early Wednesday. Carey’s campaign slogan was “Build. That. Wall.” We are unsure to which wall in his jurisdiction he refers, but the town of Mexico is in it.

It looks as if Max Linn won some towns. The Bar Harbor man, who was disqualified from the election in a drawn-out legal process involving his filing fraudulent ballot access paperwork, continued his campaign anyway and had a strong showing in some towns.

Votes for Linn were counted as blanks so we don’t know for sure, but “blanks” beat state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, in Friendship and came close in several other towns, including Machias, Eddington and Newport. Linn also received 106 votes in Millinocket, but it doesn’t matter. Brakey advances to the general election.

Mary Mayhew lost in her hometown. The former Department of Health and Human Services commissioner was defeated by Moody in China, which is where Mayhew lives, 183 votes to 116. Her 26.4 percent did out-perform Garrett Mason and Ken Fredette in China. Moody, on the other hand, did well in his hometown of Gorham, where he earned 83 percent of the vote.

Gov. Paul LePage continues to have his own set of facts. He told a reporter Tuesday that he “probably” would not certify Tuesday’s primary election results. Thing is, according to Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, the governor does not certify results in primaries. So, as usual, LePage was somehow right even though he was wrong.

Our exit pollsters in the field ran into some characters. The BDN was doing exit polling for the first time because of ranked-choice voting and you can expect some analysis to come on that either today or tomorrow. But some of the interactions with voters were priceless.

Reporter Abigail Curtis was asked by one man to check him for ticks, but she says that she knew him “vaguely,” so he “felt safe to ask.” She also ran into a one-eyed white dog outside a polling station. Reporter Lauren Abbate asked one woman to take our survey. She didn’t have time, but she gave Lauren a hug. Thanks for being weird and great, Maine.

Maine’s economic development commissioner is leaving

George Gervais was one of the longest-serving officials in the LePage administration. The governor’s office said Tuesday that Gervais would step down as of June 22. LePage said in a statement that he “worked collaboratively across departments to increase trade and tourism with tremendous success.” Gervais worked in former Gov. John Baldacci’s administration before he became commissioner in May 2011. He assumed the office after the resignation of LePage’s first commissioner and has held it ever since.

Reading list

  • Ranked-choice voting is here to stay. A legislative attempt to delay and set the stage for the demise of Maine’s ranked-choice voting law died Tuesday when voters upheld a citizen-initiated veto of a law that the Legislature passed last year. The result is that Maine is now operating under the original citizen-initiated referendum from 2016 and ranked-choice voting will be used in federal races and primaries from now on.
  • A legislator appears to have topped a conservationist and a bookseller in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District. Jared Golden, the assistant Maine House majority leader from Lewiston, rode a strong showing in his home city to open a commanding lead on Lucas St. Clair of Hampden and Craig Olson of Islesboro. Early Wednesday morning, Golden’s vote total hovered just above the 50 percent threshold that would give him the nomination and avoid a ranked-choice re-tabulation. If that lead holds, Golden would face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and two independents in the November general election.
  • Nick Isgro will remain Waterville’s mayor. Isgo, who triggered national controversy by tweeting “Eat it, Hogg” to a Florida school shooting survivor in April, survived a recall attempt brought forward by former Waterville Mayor Karen Heck on Tuesday. A separate recall attempt involving Waterville City Councilor John O’Donnell — which was essentially a retaliatory strike for the Isgro recall — also failed.
  • A number of legislative candidates advanced to the general election in yesterday’s voting. We’re still collecting results for 26 primary contests, including 19 for Democrats and seven for Republicans. Among the more noteworthy results were nominations to run for Portland-area House and Senate seat which were secured by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross for her House seat and Rep. Heather Sanborn for a Senate seat.
  • The Maine Department of Health and Human Services delayed implementation of a new billing system that worried addiction treatment providers. The plan to switch from annual contracts providing set, regular payments to essentially a fee-for-service system will now take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, instead of at the beginning of next month.

A very low IQ individual

President Donald Trump took a break Tuesday from his schedule of meetings with world leaders to trash actor Robert De Niro as a “very low IQ individual” who “may be punch drunk.”

We’ve seen “Raging Bull” and “Ronin,” and the president might be right. And Trump gets a pass for lashing out, given what De Niro said about him Sunday during an award show.  

We’ve also seen The Good Shepherd and watched Obama give him the presidential medal of freedom in 2016. He’s smarter than he looks. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins, Michael Shepherd and Robert Long. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but email us directly at ccousins@bangordailynews.com, mshepherd@bangordailynews.com or rlong@bangordailynews.com.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.