November 2022 Election Update
Maine State House
Most of us who are obsessed with electoral politics expected a tight Gubernatorial race and, if not changes in control of the House or Senate, much closer margins between the majority and minority parties in Maine. Governor Janet Mills led in all public polling that took place this election cycle, but given polling inaccuracies in recent years, and the popularity of Governor LePage in his previous election victories, many expected the race to tighten significantly on Election Day. When the final votes were tallied, Governor Mills won re-election by a historically wide margin of 56% compared to LePage’s 42% and Unenrolled candidate Sam Hunkler’s 2%. It is expected that no significant changes will be made to the Governor’s current administrative team. Our Government Affairs Practice Group has close relationships with Governor Mills, her closest staff and her current Commissioners, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Administration over the next four years.
Unexpectedly, the composition of the State Senate did not change in terms of raw numbers. The Senate Democrats once again will hold 22 seats in the Chamber while the Senate Republicans will remain at 13 seats. The only change is that Democrats flipped the Senate seat based in Waterville (with David LaFountain winning) and the Republicans flipped the Senate seat based in Auburn (with Eric Brakey winning)– results that were a surprise to many. Senate Democrats also knew that current Senate President Troy Jackson and Senate Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee Chair, Craig Hickman, were in very tough races and could lose both or either seat. However, at the end of the night both retained their seats by relatively slim margins.
Senate Democrats will choose their leadership team for the 131st Legislature this Thursday, November 10th. We expect that Senate President Jackson, D-Aroostook; Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Sagadahoc; and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Cumberland, will retain their positions. Senate Republicans will also choose their two legislative leaders on November 10th. Whether current Republican Senate Leader Jeff Timberlake, R-Androscoggin will chose to remain in leadership is unclear. Current Assistant Republican Senate Leader Matt Pouliot, R-Kennebec has announced he will not seek another term in leadership. Names that have been mentioned as potential replacements for open Senate Republican leadership positions include Senators Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook; Lisa Keim, R-Oxford; Brad Farrin, R-Somerset; Rick Bennett, R-Oxford; and Stacey Guerin, R-Penobscot.
Political insiders also expected that the House Republicans had a chance to flip control of the Maine House or to make it a much closer margin between them and the House Democratic Majority. The current make-up of the House is 80 Democrats, 67 Republicans, and 4 left leaning independents. The newly elected House will be 82 Democrats, 67 Republicans and 2 left leaning independents. The House Republicans will choose their leaders next Monday, November 14th, and House Democrats will choose the Speaker and leaders next Thursday, November 17th.
Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross and Rep. Ed Crockett, both D-Portland, have announced interest in the Speaker position. Rep. Maureen Terry, D-Gorham; and Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, are running to be the House Majority Leader. Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston; and Rep. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, are running for the Assistant House Majority Leader position.
With both current Republican Leaders term limited, many House Republican members are considering a potential leadership run. Rep. Josh Morris, R-Turner, has expressed his interest in the House Minority Leader position. Other House Republicans who have been mentioned as possible candidates for either open position include Reps. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn; Shelly Rudnicki, R-Fairfield; Dick Campbell, R-Orrington; and Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor.
In Maine’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree handily won her sixth term in office, beating Edwin Thelander. In the 2nd Congressional District, there is a rematch between second term Democratic Congressman Jared Golden and past two-term Congressman Bruce Poliqiun. Golden defeated Poliquin in the ranked choice election in 2018. At this time Golden is leading Poliquin 48.64% - 44.57% with independent Tiffany Bond, who also ran in 2018, getting 6.79%. This means that the race will also go through the ranked choice process. Golden is expected to win re-election, given that Bond’s voters are expected to have listed Golden as their second choice in overwhelming numbers.
Congressional Republicans are expected to win a slim four seat Majority if the current leads in each House seat remain. The U.S Senate could go either way at this time. Who will be in control depends on who ultimately wins in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. At this writing in Arizona, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is ahead of Republican Blake Masters 51.4% - 46.4% with 66% of precincts reported. In Nevada Republican Senate Candidate Adam Laxalt is leading incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto 49.9% - 47.2% with 77% of precincts reported.
If Democrats win both of these races they will retain control of the Senate. If Republicans win both they will gain control of the Senate. However, if each party wins only one of these seats, then control of the Senate will be decided in four weeks when the runoff election in Georgia is decided. With 98% of precincts reported, incumbent Democratic Senator, Raphael Warnock is ahead of Republican candidate Herschel Walker 49.4% - 48.5%, with Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver garnering 2.1%. Unlike Maine, where ranked choice voting is automatic, if no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, Georgia uses the much more expensive and time consuming process of a run-off election between the top two vote getters.
The Preti team will provide another update when leadership decisions are made and keep you informed as committee chair decisions are made, and committee make-up becomes clear. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, information, or clarification you may need.