Maine Primary: What to Watch

The races to watch in today’s Maine primaries are the Democratic and Republican contests in the state’s 2nd District, a vast area covering 90 percent of Maine that’s the more politically competitive of the state’s two districts.

Democratic Rep. Michael Michaud is leaving open the seat to run for governor, and Democratic voters will nominate either state Sen. Emily Cain or state Sen. Troy Jackson.

Cain’s backers include the political action committees of the American Medical Association, the League of Conservation Voters, the Human Rights Campaign and Moveon.org. Emily’s List, a political group aiding Democratic women who support abortion rights, also is helping Cain.

Jackson’s financial backers include unions representing carpenters, painters, electricians, food workers and nurses.

The Republican candidates are Kevin Raye, a former state senator who was chief of staff to Republican Olympia Snowe when she was a senator, and Bruce Poliquin, a former state treasurer who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.

This is Raye’s third bid for Congress, having won 48 percent against Michaud in a 2002 open-seat race and 42 percent against the Democratic incumbent in 2012.

Raye’s financial backers include his ex-boss, Snowe, who donated the maximum $2,600 for the primary election, and Republican Majority for Choice, which aids party members who support abortion rights. The political funds of the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Business also donated to Raye’s campaign.

Poliquin, an investor, received a donation from Liz Ann Sonders, the chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab Corp.

The Lewiston Sun Journal has a good rundown of the 2nd District primaries.

The general election should be competitive. Maine’s 2nd backed President Barack Obama with 53 percent of the vote in the 2012 election, though Republican Gov. Paul LePage won a plurality in the 2nd District in the 2010 election, according to data compiled by Political Capital.

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Sen. Susan Collins faces no opposition in the Republican primary and is strongly favored to win a fourth term in November, six years after she trounced a 12-year House Democrat with 61 percent of the vote in a state Obama twice carried. Democrat Shenna Bellows also is unopposed in the primary.

That Collins has no primary opponent is noteworthy, given that she regularly scores at the low end of the Republican spectrum on the vote scorecards of small-government activist groups.  Other Republican senators less likely to compromise with Democrats than Collins drew primary opposition linked to the Tea Party movement.

There aren’t any contested primaries for governor, a contest in which Michaud is looking to unseat LePage.

A complicating factor for Michaud is the independent candidacy of Eliot Cutler, who was runner-up to LePage in the 2010 election. LePage won with 38 percent of the vote compared with 36 percent for Cutler and 19 percent for Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell.

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