Your vote matters: Past elections show Maine politics can swing on a small number of votes

As Mainers head to the polls on Tuesday to cast their votes in a number of hotly-contested state and federal races, a look back at the recent history of Maine elections shows a small number of votes can have a major impact in shaping state politics.

“Please vote [Tuesday]. Your vote counts…trust me. No. Seriously. Trust me!” wrote former Auburn councilor Adam Lee on Twitter on Monday. Lee was defeated in the city’s 2017 race for mayor by six votes.

Democrats this year are hoping that they will regain control the governor’s office, state House, and state Senate for the first time since 2010 — a “trifecta” held by the party from 2003 to 2010.

The Maine GOP currently controls the state Senate by a single seat. In this election, nine districts are considered battlegrounds. In 2016, state Sen. Troy Jackson won his district by just 571 votes. | courtesy of Flickr

In the gubernatorial race, the most recent poll by Emerson College shows Democrat Janet Mills pulling ahead of Republican candidate Shawn Moody by 8 percentage points, with 49.7 percent of those polled saying they would choose Mills, compared to 41.7 percent for Moody. An August poll by Suffolk University placed Mills and Moody in a dead heat.

Maine House Democrats are hoping to maintain control of the lower chamber, which they currently hold 73-70.

In 2016, seven races for Maine’s House of Representatives were decided by fewer than 100 votes. House District 113 was decided by 89 votes; District 74 by 57; District 128 by 55; District 9 by 54; District 26 by 42; District 121 by 25; and District 94 by 12 votes.

Maine’s upper chamber vied for in nine battleground districts

In the state Senate, which the Maine GOP currently controls by a single seat, nine districts are considered battlegrounds, meaning both parties are targeting these districts because incumbents won by less than a 10-percent margin in 2016.

Five of these Senate battleground districts are controlled by incumbent Democrats, while four districts are held by incumbent Republicans.

Democratic incumbent Shenna Bellows is trying to hold on to District 14, one of the battleground Senate districts, challenged by Republican Matt Stone, who describes himself as a “nationalist” motivated by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration. Bellows won District 14 with only 44.8 percent of the vote in 2016, with Republican and independent candidates splitting the vote.

Incumbent Democrat Troy Jackson is running for reelection in District 1, also a battleground district which includes Caribou. He is facing Republican candidate Michael Nadeau. Jackson won his district by just 571 votes in 2016.

Republican incumbents Dana Dow and Scott Cyrway are running to hold on to districts 13 and 16, which they each won by 1,222 and 1,532 votes in 2016, respectively.

The Maine Senate has flipped party control three times since 2010. The 2014 elections, which gave Republicans control of the Senate, swung against Democrats in several districts by a small number of votes.

Democrats lost the Maine Senate in 2014 after holding it by slim margins in large towns

Senate District 9, which was considered a battleground by both parties that year, was one of the few pivot seats won by Democrats with incumbent Geoffrey Gratwick beating Republican Cary Weston by just 861 votes, with 51.1 percent of the total votes cast.

Overall, Republicans picked up five seats in 2014, many with a similarly slim margin, gaining control of the upper chamber, which they have held onto since.

Prior to the 2014 losses, the Democrats had taken back control of the state Senate in 2012, breaking a Republican “trifecta.” They did it by flipping key districts with a small number of votes.

District 25, which includes Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland and part of Westbrook, was won by 939 votes in 2012. Democrat Colleen Lachowicz received 8,712 votes and Republican incumbent Thomas Martin received 7,773.

In District 22, Democrat Edward Mazurek beat Republican incumbent Christopher Rector by 1,393 votes.

Also in 2012, Democrat John Cleveland beat Republican incumbent Lois Snowe-Mello by 1,359 votes, flipping District 15, which includes Augusta, back to the Democrats.

(Photo: East End School, Portland via Flickr)

About Dan Neumann

Avatar photoDan studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North's interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago's West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)

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