Under the Dome: Inside the Maine State House Special Edition

Guide to Primary Day 2012

For political junkies, Primary Day is interesting.  For most, however, Primary Day just draws a yawn.  If you find yourself looking at returns tonight or tomorrow, here are some of the races of interest to keep in mind:

U.S. Senate

While some suggest the races in both parties are a toss-up, here goes:

Republican Candidates – with no public polling, the conventional speculation is that the Republican race is a two-way race between Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Secretary of State Charlie Summers.  The alternative speculation is that this is a two-way race between Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and former Senate President Rick Bennett.  In either case, a Poliquin victory would be a victory for the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

Democrat Candidates – in this race, the conventional speculation is that this is a two-way race between state Senator Cynthia Dill and former Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.  Dunlap is thought of as the moderate from the 2nd Congressional District with the support of rural voters and sportsmen.  Dill is viewed as the more liberal/progressive of the two and a Dill victory would be a victory for the progressive wing of the Democrat Party. 

The winners of these primaries will face former Governor Angus King, the presumptive frontrunner in this race, in November.  Should King face the less moderate candidates (Poliqin and Dill), this could have the effect of bolstering King’s numbers in the fall.

U.S. House

1st District – there is a Republican primary between state Senator Jon Courtney and merchant mariner Patrick Calder.  A Calder win is very unlikely but would be a real win for the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

2nd District – there is a Republican primary between state Senate President Kevin Raye and Navy retiree Blaine Richardson.  A Richardson win is unlikely, but he does have strong support from the Ron Paul faction of the Republican Party. 


Turnout is projected to be below twenty percent today, based on the lack of absentee ballots requested in the run up to Primary Day.  This has been well covered in the media in the past few days.  It will be important to watch the split between the parties regarding turnout.  Republicans feel that they are on the winning side of an “enthusiasm gap” right now due to President Obama’s low numbers and last week’s Republican win in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall contest.  If more Republicans show up to the polls today than Democrats, you can expect to hear more about the “enthusiasm gap,” as Republicans are hoping to ride this perceived trend all the way into November, when it really matters. 

Down Ballot Races of Note

Republican Senate Primaries – Three Republican primaries of note today feature Republican House members that are making a bid for the state Senate.  These three are all being challenged in the primary by Tea Party candidates.  These have also been characterized as “establishment” versus “grass roots” races.  A Tea Party victory in any of these races would be a real upset.  The three races in question are in Senate District 20 (Lincoln County) between Representative Les Fossel and Stuart Smith, Senate District 29 (Washington County) between Representative David Burns and Kathleen Caso and Senate District 33 (Penobscot County) between Representative Andre Cushing and James Emerson. 

Saco-Biddeford Area Races – This area has produced a number of interesting primaries in the Democrat Party this year.  The Senate District 5 seat is an open seat and two sitting Democrat Representatives, Don Pilon and Linda Valentino, are squaring off in that contest.  Three incumbent Democrat Representatives are also facing primary challenges today in House Districts 135 (Representative Paulette Beaudoin is being challenged by former Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey), 136 (Representative Megan Rochelo is being challenged by Bobby Mills), and 137 (Representative Alan Casavant, who is also Biddeford’s Mayor, is being challenged by state Senator Nancy Sullivan, who is termed out of the Senate).  These races have already drawn some attention due to independent expenditures on behalf of pro-gaming candidates.  The results of these elections may provide some insight into the power of independent expenditures in Maine legislative races. 

With these races in mind, enjoy watching the returns and try not to stay up too late tonight.