Every state-level office is up for grabs in Tuesday’s elections for governor and both houses of the Maine Legislature.
Even a few shifts in the Maine House means Republicans could take control of the chamber for the first time since 2010. The Senate is also in play, making it a possibility that Mainers could see a new party calling the shots at the State House in 2023.
We lay out the five most compelling races below.
Senate District 1 (St. John Valley to Caribou)
The raw battle for the seat held by Maine Senate President Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, is as symbolic as it is practical for the Republicans. Victory for Rep. Sue Bernard, R-Caribou, would unseat a Democratic star in a region that has increasingly turned conservative.
Perhaps more importantly, a Republican win is practically required for the GOP to take the Maine Senate. That is why more than $1 million has been poured into the race between the candidates and outside groups, shattering a 2012 record. Four-fifths of the outside spending has come from Democrats trying to bail Jackson out.
Bernard, a former TV news anchor and spokesperson for the Catholic Church, is banking on former Democrats who now vote for the GOP to push her over the finish line. She and Republicans have argued that Jackson’s progressive views are not in line with his rural district.
Jackson argues that he has given Aroostook strong power in Augusta as the Senate president. He has highlighted legislative successes on that front, including keeping the Maine Veterans’ Home open in Caribou and being a champion of working people in a heavily working-class district.
Senate District 14 (Augusta suburbs)
Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, will look to win a full term to his seat after easily winning a special election filling a seat vacated by Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in 2021.
Hickman faces a longtime political player, Rep. Jeff Hanley, R-Pittston, at the other end of the politically mixed district. Like many Republicans running for the Legislature, he has made the economy and inflation a cornerstone of his campaign.
Democrats are clearly worried about Hickman’s seat, which is why outside groups have put almost $400,000 toward supporting Hickman. Republican groups have spent about $64,000 on Hanley’s behalf.
House District 37 (Winterport, Searsport, Stockton Springs, Prospect, Part of Frankfort)
This open swing district is being contested by Winterport Town Councilor Maggie English-Flanagan, who is the Democratic nominee, and Republican Reagan Paul, a 23-year-old who lives in the same town.
During an election where other Maine Republicans have sought to avoid the abortion issue, Paul has called for a personhood amendment to the state Constitution, which would likely ban almost all abortions here. She has touted the endorsement of Seth Keshel, who has pushed the debunked theory that President Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election.
In August, English-Flanagan said she was prioritizing abortion rights and the right for workers to unionize. She has also emphasized bipartisanship, saying on her website that she won’t always take the “Democratic solution” if elected.
Democratic outside groups have spent around $31,000 and the GOP $27,000 to make this race the fourth-most expensive Maine House race in a district where Republicans have an edge in party registration.
House District 86 (Raymond)
Maine’s most expensive House race has seen more than $80,000 in a district with a slight Republican edge in party registration. Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, and Republican Greg Foster are facing off for the third time in a row. She won by 520 votes in 2018 and 143 in 2020.
Raymond is not a community that leans solidly one way or the other: It voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody by 6 percentage points in 2018 only to vote for Democratic President Joe Biden by 4 points in 2020.
House District 106 (Windham)
Windham is one of Maine’s most politically divided communities, and that also manifests itself at the legislative level. That’s partly what has made the district the second-most expensive in the Maine House, with Democrats spending $39,000 to Republicans’ $31,000. The seat is open, with Democrat Dana Reed and Republican Barbara Bagshaw, facing off.
Dana Reed, a former Navy chaplain, has emphasized bipartisanship and the economy. He has highlighted his endorsement by the Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund and said American women “scorned” by the Supreme Court’s June decision ending abortion rights would vote.
Bagshaw is a former educator and president of an arts nonprofit. Along with the economy, she had made schools part of her campaign, saying that parents “absolutely” need to be part of their child’s education. It has become a familiar phrase for the GOP amid concerns about inappropriate lessons in Maine classrooms that Democrats argue are overblown.