Snow covers the park in front of the State House in Augusta on Wednesday Dec. 29, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Former state Sen. Jim Boyle easily held an open Maine House of Representatives seat in the Portland suburbs for Democrats on Tuesday, extending the party’s streak of special-election victories at the start of a crucial election cycle.

Boyle won the seat representing most of Gorham and a sliver of Scarborough with 57 percent of votes to 38 percent for Republican Tim Thorsen and nearly 5 percent for independent Gorham Town Councilor Suzanne Phillips, according to unofficial returns.

Democrats averted problems with the three-way split after spending more outside money in a bid to win Tuesday’s special election than they did on any House race in the 2020 cycle. Half of the $44,000 they spent went toward canvassers, with Republicans mustering just $8,000 to boost their candidate in an oddly timed election that drew just 18 percent turnout.

The seat that Boyle will take was vacated in October after former Rep. Kyle Bailey, D-Gorham, stepped down to manage a referendum campaign. He easily won the 2020 race to succeed his term-limited husband, former Rep. Andrew McLean, who ousted a Republican incumbent in 2012 and held the seat by double-digit margins through the 2018 election.

Boyle, who lives in Gorham, is expected to be seated in the coming days and will fill the remaining year of Bailey’s term. The retired environmental consultant briefly ran for his party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2018 as a progressive who touted business experience.

Democrats have not lost a legislative special election since 2017 and that was in a deeply conservative district. Most recently, Raegan LaRochelle flipped an Augusta district in the November 2021 election.

The rout denied Republicans a shot of momentum entering a 2022 cycle in which they hope to replace Democratic Gov. Janet Mills with former Gov. Paul LePage and claw back legislative seats. 

Boyle’s victory will not change the calculus in Augusta much, giving Democrats an 82-65 House majority over Republicans with three independents and one vacancy after former Rep. Chris Johansen, R-Monticello, left his seat in November. That district is likely to be held by Republicans as one of the most conservative in the state.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...