The majority of Republicans running for the Maine Legislature who either spread election fraud conspiracies or backed extreme stances against reproductive and LGBTQ rights were unsuccessful in their races on Tuesday.
Despite not being able to retake the Blaine House and win back majorities in either chamber of the State House, the Maine Republican Party, however, was able to elect some candidates with extreme views.
As Beacon previously reported, 27 Republican candidates had either spread election conspiracies or made other comments questioning the results of the 2020 election.
Among those, most were defeated. However, 11 won their races for the House on Tuesday or are leading in districts that have not yet been called. They include incumbent Reps. Gary Drinkwater of Milford, Heidi Sampson of Alfred, Abigail Griffin of Levant, Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor and Wayne Parry of Arundel. They also include newcomers Chad Perkins, who is leading in House District 31; Katrina Smith, who won House District 62; Michael Soboleski, who is winning in House District 73; Richard Campbell, who was unopposed in House District 19; and Reagan Paul, who is leading in House District 37.
Several of the winning candidates have said the 2020 election featured widespread fraud.
One challenger, Perkins, a Piscataquis County Republican who is leading Democratic Rep. Richard Evans of Dover-Foxcroft, wrote on Facebook two days after the 2020 election that the country would be better served if “President Trump and the courts can stop this insane attempted coup on our Republic.”
Candidates who ran on anti-immigrant agenda
In addition to election deniers, six of the ten Republican candidates who were backed by a far-right political action committee run by former legislator Larry Lockman lost their races or are trailing. They include anti-vaccine activist Donna Dodge of Denmark, a former dietician who lost her license for refusing to take vaccinations. Dodge is trailing Independent Walter Riseman in Distrist 83 by less than 200 votes.
Lockman has a decades-long history of extreme anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant activism. His Maine First PAC endorses candidates who pledged to support an anti-immigrant “Maine First Agenda” that includes defunding so-called “sanctuary cities” that do not participate in federal immigrant sweeps, as well as banning teachers from discussing racism, sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
The four successful Republican candidates backed by Lockman include House candidates Soboleski, Benjamin Hymes in District 38, James White in District 30, and Tammy Schmersal-Burgess in District 77.
Candidates who ran on anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion agenda
Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund heralded the re-election of Gov. Janet Mills and other Democrats as a triumph for reproductive freedom. “Politicians who wouldn’t support reproductive rights found themselves on the wrong side of history. Mainers are clear, we won’t go back,” Nicole Clegg, the group’s senior vice president of public affairs, said in a statement after the vote.
And while the majority of Maine districts chose candidates who support abortion rights, there were some anti-choice candidates who were successful.
About half of the candidates endorsed by the extremist Christian Civic League won their legislative races. The league is the state’s leading anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ organization, running referendum campaigns opposing same-sex marriage in 2009 and 2013 and referenda in 1998 and 2000 denying basic anti-discrimination protections to gay and lesbian Mainers.
The organization endorsed 112 legislative Republicans who answered their survey, which included questions such as “Should access to abortion be restricted?” “Should women’s shelters be required to house biological men who identify as women?” and “Should parents be allowed to choose whether their child receives professional counseling in accordance with their religious values on matters of gender and sexuality?” — referring to the widely-discredited practice of conversion therapy, which was banned under Mills.
Fifty-seven of their endorsed candidates won, including Republican Senate leaders Jeffrey Timberlake of Androscoggin County and Matthew Pouliot of Kennebec County.
The complete list of the Christian Civic League’s endorsed candidates can be viewed here.
Election deniers lose in critical battleground states
Across the country, extreme candidates who aligned with former President Donald Trump did not fare well on Election Day. Those include candidates that echoed the former president’s election conspiracies.
Going into Election Day, election deniers were on the ballot in around half of the races for governor and secretary of state and one-third of the races for attorney general, according to States United for Democracy. All three statewide positions play critical roles in overseeing elections.
While election deniers have so far fared better in races for the U.S. House, aligning with Trump and denying election results did not prove to be a good electoral strategy for statewide races to control elections. Election deniers so far have lost races for governor in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania and races for secretary of state in Michigan, Minnesota and New Mexico.
Both Florida and Ohio shifted to the right on Tuesday, and election deniers rode that wave to victory in races for U.S. Senate in Ohio with the election of J.D. Vance and attorneys general in both states.
But for the most part, election deniers fared worse than polls predicted, which will likely leave the Republican Party at a juncture where it must decide if aligning with Trump’s claims is an advantageous strategy moving into 2024.
Newsroom reporter Kira Lerner contributed to this article.