Democrats cruised to majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and will continue to hold full control of Augusta after a Tuesday election in which they spent nearly three times more outside money than their Republican counterparts.
The majority party claimed at least 82 seats plus two liberal-leaning independents in the 151-member House as of Wednesday morning. Democrats held a 22-13 Senate advantage going into Election Day, and Republicans thought early Wednesday that they would see no net gains. Democrats may even gain a seat there.
After winning reelection on Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills will get six straight years of Democratic control. It was a surprising result. Since the spring, national observers were placing Maine on a short list of states with tight legislative races. The House was seen as the chamber that was most likely to flip and some were thinking the Senate could as well.
The biggest contest was in the upper chamber, where Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, was locked in the Legislature’s most expensive race in history with Rep. Sue Bernard, R-Caribou, which drew more than $1 million from campaign and allied interest groups.
2022 Maine general election results
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Jackson and Democrats claimed victory in that race just after midnight on Wednesday, when the Senate president led with 53.1 percent of votes to Bernard’s 46.9 percent. In a shocking outcome, the Democrat won Bernard’s home city, a Republican bastion that went for former Gov. Paul LePage and former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District on Tuesday.
The massive level of spending was a factor in the outcome. Outside groups spent $4.7 million to boost Democrats candidates with nearly $780,000 of that dedicated to Jackson’s race alone. That total was nearly three times more than the $1.7 million spent by Republican groups across both chambers.
Democrats won other seats at the center of that map. In the Senate, David LaFountain, a former Waterville and Winslow fire chief, narrowly beat Rep. Mike Perkins, R-Oakland, in an open Republican seat. Rep. Jessica Fay of Raymond beat Republican Greg Foster by 81 votes in a third-straight campaign that drew $80,000 in outside spending, the most in that chamber.
The majority party prevailed in other key races. In Wells, former Rep. Dan Hobbs, D-Wells, ousted Rep. Tim Roche, R-Wells. Former Rep. Mike Lajoie, a Democrat, beat Rep. Jon Connor, a freshman who had been the first Republican to hold a Lewiston House seat in years.
Republicans flipped some seats, including a symbolically important one based in the St. John Valley and occupied by the powerful former House Speaker John Martin, D-Eagle Lake. It will be represented by former NASCAR driver Austin Theriault, a Republican from Fort Kent.
The victory for Democrats means they will be able to keep Attorney General Aaron Frey, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and State Treasurer Henry Beck in their jobs, which are selected by a majority of lawmakers. Each of them is a former Democratic legislator.