Most of Maine’s communities are reliably red or blue, but those in the middle will also help decide the winners on Tuesday.
The Bangor Daily News and our national partners at Decision Desk HQ are watching 25 cities and towns for signals on how the state will vote. They made this list because of their sizes or their standings as places where the right Democrats and Republicans can do well.
Here’s a rundown of five of the most interesting places on our map.
Maine’s second-biggest city has long been its political heart. On Monday, both Gov. Janet Mills and former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District made stops there, and Republicans launched a canvass there Saturday morning.
Lewiston is a heavily Democratic city by voter registration, but former Gov. Paul LePage was born there, and it voted for him in both 2010 and 2014, owing in part to three-way splits in those races and a documented trend of Franco-Americans shifting away from Democratic policies.
LePage’s victory came two years after almost two-thirds of Lewiston voters went for former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. But it also backed Mills, a Democrat, over Republican Shawn Moody by 12 points in 2018 and went for President Joe Biden by 14 in 2020, allowing Democrats to have some hope here.
U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, lives in Lewiston and is from nearby Leeds. He ousted Poliquin in 2018 while beating him in Lewiston and expanded on that against Dale Crafts of Lisbon in 2020. If he wins his hometown again, he’s probably taking some LePage voters with him.
About a half-hour northwest of liberal Portland, Windham is among the most evenly divided communities in Maine. It went for Moody in 2018 and Biden two years later. LePage needs to hold his margins close or win in areas like this or he will lose. The Portland suburbs are growing. Besides Portland, Cumberland County has nearly a fifth of Maine’s voters.
Windham voters went for Biden in 2020, with the president outperforming Mills by 10. But it has voted Republican in the last three gubernatorial elections and went twice for LePage. If he is going to narrow polling gaps with the incumbent, this is a place to do it.
Ellsworth is one of eastern Maine most politically contested communities. It went from Mills in 2018 to Trump in 2020, though both candidates won their elections narrowly by 2 percentage points or less. The city also voted for LePage twice.
One issue could play an outsized role in this region — LePage and Poliquin’s posture on lobster issues, including the former governor condemning Mills for not suing the federal government over fishing rules separately from the industry and the former congressman for criticizing Golden for a past donation from the head of a group critical of the industry.
Given Mills’ support for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine and Golden’s break with her on the lawsuit issue, the congressman may be more insulated on the topic. He beat Poliquin by 3 points in Ellsworth in 2018, which he expanded to 9 in 2020 against Crafts.
A 2nd District-style town in the heart of York County in the 1st District is another Biden-Moody community and was Maine’s most populous community to go for the Republican in 2018. It went for LePage twice, though LePage’s 2010 victory was by just five votes.
But it switched from Trump to Biden between 2016 to 2020, so going for Mills is not out of the question. Any kind of margin on either side will be of benefit, with Sanford having over 12,000 voters. Mills made stops in nearby Kennebunk and Biddeford on Sunday.
Across the Kennebec River from Waterville, this town is the most Republican-leaning on this list, having voted for Republicans in the past three gubernatorial elections and two presidential races. But it did go for U.S Rep. Chellie Pingree in 2018 and 2020.
Margins have also been small in GOP victories: Trump by 4 percentage points in 2020, Moody by 2 in 2018. That was less so the case when LePage ran in 2010 and 2014, with Winslow granting him a double-digit victory each time. The former Waterville mayor probably has a strong leg up here.