Chellie Pingree addresses a crowd of supporters in Portland after the BDN called the race for her just before 10 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st District speaks at her election night party in Portland on Tuesday after declaring victory. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District won an eighth term on Tuesday, easily fending off Republican challenger Ed Thelander.

The Democrat’s victory was never in question in a deep-blue district that she has won by double digits every time since her first reelection bid in 2010. Republicans have only been able to recruit political neophytes into races against her since 2014, including Thelander.

Pingree had 63.8 percent of votes to Thelander’s 36.2 percent as of 9:57 p.m. Tuesday, when the Bangor Daily News and Decision Desk HQ called the race for the incumbent based on unofficial results.

The congresswoman is set to be in a harder position in Washington with Republicans favored to win back the House. If that happens, she would lose her role as chair of an appropriations subcommittee steering funds toward environmental and conservation initiatives.

In a speech to supporters gathered at the music venue Aura in Portland, Pingree told supporters that the Republican agenda will “take away our most fundamental rights, undermine democracy, and favor big corporations over working families.”

“The reason we are on pins and needles is because this is such a critical election year,” Pingree said.

ELECTION RESULTS

Pingree is a reliable Democratic vote and one of the most liberal members of the House Democratic caucus on economic issues, according to VoteView. She has been a longtime supporter of universal health care, running on the issue in 2008. The organic farmer from North Haven also champions agricultural issues in the House.

Thelander, a former Navy SEAL from Bristol, ran an energetic campaign despite his longshot status, raising more than any Republican opponent of Pingree’s since 2010. But he drew negative attention in October after comparing lobster rules intended to protect the endangered right whale to rape at a rally. Democrats criticized him and he apologized at a debate.

BDN writer Callie Ferguson contributed to this report.