Former state Rep. Abden Simmons narrowly flipped a Maine House of Representatives seat along the midcoast on Tuesday, giving Republicans their first legislative special election victory in a competitive area since 2015.
Simmons, a clammer and elver fisherman who also serves as a Waldoboro selectman, won 52.2 percent of votes to 47.8 percent for former Rep. Wendy Pieh, D-Bremen. The seat was vacated in February by former Rep. Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, when he resigned after pleading not guilty to signature fraud charges related to his 2022 campaign.
The election will not change much in Augusta. Democrats control the executive and legislative branches and will now have an 81-68 advantage over House Republicans alongside two liberal-leaning independents. It is still a shot of momentum for a minority party that had hopes of flipping the House in last year’s election but were effectively stalemated by Democrats.
Simmons is expected to be seated in the next few days as the Legislature races to finish up work within two weeks or so. High-profile votes are expected by month’s end on a sweeping paid family and medical leave proposal, a controversial abortion-rights expansion championed by Gov. Janet Mills and a spending proposal floated by the governor.
The Republican served a single term in the seat after the 2016 election. He lost the seat two years later to former Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, and also dropped a hotly contested 2022 race to freshman state Sen. Cameron Reny, D-Bristol. Simmons put fisheries policy and technical education atop his priority list in an interview with the Lincoln County News.
Democrats have dominated competitive special elections in recent years due to a financial advantage and poor candidate selection by Republicans. But Simmons and Republicans did not have those problems this time, dominating Pieh and Democrats in fundraising and spending in an area that leans conservative by party registration.
Simmons raised nearly $11,000 more in his privately financed campaign than Pieh got under the taxpayer-funded Clean Election program. Republican outside groups also spent roughly $20,000 on the race, compared with just over $7,000 from Democratic counterparts. Mills and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, attended a weekend canvass for Pieh.