This is an overview of the 2016 state senate elections in Maine. In this diary, I will go through every race, discussing the candidates and the outlook of each race. A small note of warning: Independent candidates have not yet filed for these elections, and if they do they could have a significant impact on the results.
In 2014, Republicans retook the state Senate from the Democrats, while the Democrats maintained control of the state House. Republicans currently have a 20-15 majority in the state senate, and Democrats have an 78-69 majority (with 4 independents) in the state house of representatives. My prediction, as of now, is that Democrats are favored to retake the state senate and gain seats in the state House.
With that being said, follow me below the fold for the individual state senate races.
District 1 (northern Aroostook): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 59.54%
This seat is open due to the decision by incumbent Peter Edgecomb (R-Caribou) not to run for re-election. Democrats got their best possible candidate in former state senator and 2014 ME-02 candidate Troy Dale Jackson of Allagash, who won this seat three times. The Republican candidate is Timothy Guerrette, a member of the Caribou City Council. Guerrette isn’t the Republicans’ strongest possible candidate (that would have been state representative Carol McElwee of Caribou), and he’s only served for one year. Even if Edgecomb had run for re-election, this would have been Lean D because Jackson is running, but since Edgecomb is out, this race is LIKELY D. This is the seat most likely to flip from Republican to Democratic in November.
District 2 (southern Aroostook): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 43.95%
This seat is open due to another Republican incumbent, Michael Willette of Presque Isle, not running for re-election. Unlike Edgecomb, Willette’s decision to retire was likely due to several scandals involving racist and anti-Muslim postings on various websites. The Republicans are instead having a primary between two candidates: state representative Ricky Long of Sherman, a tiny town not near the population centers of the district, and Emily Smith, the chair of the Presque Isle city council (Presque Isle is the largest town in the district – about 25% of the SD) The Democrat here is Michael Carpenter of Houlton, a former state senator and state AG who held Willette to a very narrow victory in 2014 in this McCain-Romney district. Carpenter won Houlton (one of the two population centers here) heavily in 2014, while Willette only won by winning Presque Isle by a wide margin. Long won’t be able to depend on the big towns to pull out a win here, and Smith is untested outside of Presque Isle. This could be a very close race. TOSSUP.
District 3 (Somerset County): Rodney Whittemore (R-Skowhegan)
Obama ’12: 50.71%
This seat is held by Whittemore, a popular incumbent who got almost 67% in 2014. He’s never been seriously challenged since his initial election in 2010, but that’s going to change this year, since Democrats got their absolute best candidate (and the only candidate who could seriously challenge Whittemore): House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. McCabe is popular in Skowhegan, having consistently outperformed the top of the ticket in his elections. However, due to Whittemore’s being entrenched, this is still a definite uphill race for Democrats. My guess is that McCabe is running this year to increase his name recognition, so that he can run again in 2018 (when Whittemore will be term-limited). LIKELY R.
District 4 (Piscataquis and parts of Somerset and Penobscot): Paul Davis (R-Sangerville)
Obama ’12: 44.12%
Paul Davis defeated a Republican incumbent in the primary in 2014, and then crushed his Democratic opponent with 75% of the vote. He’s running again, and his Democratic opponent is Carole Boothroyd of Dover-Foxcroft, the chair of the Piscataquis County Democratic Party. Considering that Piscataquis is a heavily Republican county, that’s a pretty thankless position, and she has no chance of defeating Davis. SAFE R.
District 5 (Orono, Old Town, Millinocket): James Dill (D-Old Town)
Obama ’12: 58.97%
First-term Democrat James Dill of Old Town easily won 59-41 in 2014 in this district that hasn’t sent a Republican to Augusta for over 25 years. The Democratic bastions of Orono and Old Town prevent Republicans from ever even coming close here. Dill’s Republican challenger this year is Brett Baber, a lawyer from Veazie. Apart from Dill’s legislative service, he is acknowledged as the foremost expert on ticks in the state of Maine. He’s completely safe. SAFE D.
District 6 (Washington County): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 49.49%
This seat is open as a result of Republican incumbent David Burns’ decision not to run for re-election. Republicans got their best possible candidate here: popular state representative Joyce Maker of Calais. However, they couldn’t avoid a primary, as William Howard, also of Calais, also filed for the Republican primary; Maker should make short work of him. The Democratic candidate is Rock Alley of Jonesport, the president of the Maine Lobstering Union (not a bad position to have in a district where lobstering is a major economic activity). Alley may also be helped by his last name, which is very common in Jonesport and the neighboring towns (the state representative for that area is also named Alley). However, this is still a Republican-leaning district, and Maker is an excellent candidate. LIKELY R.
District 7 (Hancock County): Brian Langley (R-Ellsworth)
Obama ’12: 57.92%
This is one of the most Democratic state senate districts in Maine held by a Republican, and Langley won 55-45 in 2014 and 51-49 in 2012. He is being challenged by his 2014 opponent, Democrat Theodore “Ted” Koffman of Bar Harbor, a former state legislator and executive director of the Maine Audubon Society. Also in the race is Democrat Moira O’Neill of Surry, a nurse and Emerge Maine graduate. Langley won in 2012 by racking up a 2-1 margin in Ellsworth (a town that Obama won) and by limiting his losses on heavily-Democratic Mount Desert Island. Considering how close the 2012 race was, and that Koffman now has more name recognition (and that Trump will probably perform extremely poorly here), this race is a TOSSUP.
District 8 (Brewer area, western Hancock County): Kim Rosen (R-Bucksport)
Obama ’12: 48.47%
This is a bit of a strange district, combining the Democratic Bucksport area of Hancock County with the Republican-leaning Brewer area across the Penobscot River from Bangor. In 2014, Democrat Paul P. Davis ran hard, won Brewer and did better than most Democrats in Lincoln, and still lost to Rosen 56-44. The Rosens are an institution in Bucksport, and Kim got 71% there in 2014. This year, Rosen is being challenged by Democrat Emery Deabay, also of Bucksport, who ran for this seat in 2012 and also lost 56-44. Rosen and Deabay share a political base in Bucksport, which is bad news for Deabay since this district is quite Republican outside of the Bucksport area. LIKELY R, but close to safe.
District 9 (Bangor and Hermon): Geoffrey Gratwick (D-Bangor)
Obama ’12: 55.79%
Gratwick won re-election 53-47 in an expensive, high-profile race in 2014. His Republican challenger this time is N. Laurence Willey, a lawyer in Bangor. Willey seems to be a political neophyte, and Gratwick has some serious political chops since he did better in 2014 than he did in 2014. LIKELY D.
District 10 (Western Penobscot County): Andre Cushing (R-Hampden)
Obama ’12: 42.81%
This is the most Republican state senate district in Maine. Cushing will not face a Democratic challenger in November, making this the only state senate district in Maine where one of the major parties won’t be on the ballot. An independent is expected to file eventually, but Cushing is still completely safe. SAFE R.
District 11 (Waldo County): Michael Thibodeau (R-Winterport)
Obama ’12: 53.63%
This district is coextensive with Waldo County. Thibodeau, who is the Senate Majority Leader, won re-election extremely narrowly in 2014 against Democrat Jonathan Fulford of Monroe. Fulford is back for a rematch, and due to his narrow loss even in 2014’s bad climate for Dems, he’s got a pretty good chance of defeating Thibodeau. TOSSUP.
District 12 (Knox County): David Miramant (D-Camden)
Obama ’12: 60.36%
This district contains almost the entirety of Knox County. Its incumbent, Democrat David Miramant, won his first term 52-48 in 2014. His Republican challenger is Wendy Pelletier of Hope, an unsuccessful state House candidate in 2010. As Miramant is a Democrat in a blue district, the only reason why he isn’t safe is because Republicans have represented this district in the recent past. But Miramant will probably lock this up quickly. LIKELY D.
District 13 (Lincoln County): Chris Johnson (D-Somerville)
Obama ’12: 54.02%
This district contains all but one town of Lincoln County and one town each of Knox and Kennebec Counties. Chris Johnson won this seat in a special election in 2012, then narrowly won re-election in November of that year with 50.3% of the vote, and won yet another narrow re-election in 2014 with 50.9% of the vote. This year, Johnson’s original special election opponent, former state representative Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro) is running again. If Republicans couldn’t take out Johnson in 2014, they probably won’t be able to this year, but it will be close. LEAN D, but close to tossup.
District 14 (southern Kennebec County): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 54.44%
This district is currently represented by Republican Earle McCormick, who is not running for re-election. Neither party got its best candidate here – for the Republicans, that would have been McCormick or former state senator Patrick Flood, while for Dems that would’ve been state representative Craig Hickman of Winthrop. Instead, both sides have primaries here. On the Democratic side, the best-known of the three is undoubtedly 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows of Manchester, who clearly landed on her feet after her landslide loss to Susan Collins. The other Democratic candidates are Terry Berry, a Gardiner city councilor, and George O’Keefe of Winthrop, a veteran, intelligence analyst, and firefighter. The Republican primary will consist of Maureen Blanchard, also a Gardiner city councilor, and Bryan Cutchen, a retired Navy Rear Admiral from West Gardiner. Due to the plethora of candidates running, it’s very difficult to handicap this race, but due to the district’s small Democratic lean I’d say it’s LEAN D for now. That could change, though, depending on who both parties nominate.
District 15 (Augusta area): Roger Katz (R-Augusta)
Obama ’12: 54.56%
This district contains Augusta and the towns to its immediate north. Katz is a genuinely moderate Republican (having voted repeatedly to override LePage’s veto of Medicaid expansion), and he won re-election last year in a massive 72-28 landslide. This year, he is being challenged by Democrat Marianne Stevens, another Emerge Maine graduate who will also serve as a delegate to the DNC this year. Stevens is still pretty much a Some Dude to most voters, and Katz is very popular. He will win his fourth consecutive term easily. SAFE R.
District 16 (Waterville area): Scott Cyrway (R-Benton)
Obama ’12: 57.75%
This district contains most of the towns around Waterville. I lived in this district for four years when I attended Colby College in Waterville. Cyrway defeated Democrat Colleen Lachowicz (now Colleen Madigan) 55-45 in 2014 in a major upset, and he’s running again. Facing him head-on in an epic clash will be term-limited Democratic state representative Henry Beck of Waterville. Beck is an ’09 graduate of Colby, and I’ve met him several times and know that he would be an excellent state senator. Beck doesn’t need to win any towns other than Waterville in order to win the election (Lachowicz proved that in 2012), and he’s always been very popular in Waterville. But Cyrway shouldn’t be counted out. TOSSUP.
As a side note, Colleen Madigan (formerly Lachowicz) is now running for Beck’s open state House seat, representing Colby. She will win easily.
District 17 (Franklin County): Tom Saviello (R-Wilton)
Obama ’12: 56.75%
This district includes the entirety of Franklin County and parts of western Kennebec County. Saviello, similar to Katz, is a widely popular, genuinely moderate Republican who has also voted repeatedly for Medicaid expansion. Also similar to Katz, Saviello won re-election in 2014 in an enormous landslide, winning more votes than any other state senator in Maine. His 2012 and 2014 opponent, Joanne Dunlap of Rangeley Plantation, is back for yet another rematch, but despite the blueness of this district, I don’t see why the results this year would be much different from how they were in 2012 and 2014. At this point, Dunlap is just running so that Saviello isn’t unopposed. SAFE R.
District 18 (Oxford County): John Patrick (D-Rumford)
Obama ’12: 57.17%
This district contains the northern and central portions of Oxford County, as well as Livermore and Livermore Falls in Androscoggin County. Patrick is a popular incumbent who won 57-30-13 in 2012, and 54-46 in 2014 (when the Republican wave hit this area particularly hard). His Republican opponent is former state representative Gary Knight of Livermore Falls, who represented a Democratic-leaning district. However, Knight initially filed to challenge Patrick in 2014 only to back out, which certainly doesn’t project strength. LIKELY D.
District 19 (South Oxford County and North Cumberland County): James Hamper (R-Oxford)
Obama ’12: 53.00%
Hamper is a very conservative Republican who won by 25 points in 2014 against a weak opponent (he also benefited from the Republican wave, which hit this area particularly hard). This year, he’s being challenged by Democrat Joseph Chisari of Fryeburg, a chiropractor. Chisari doesn’t seem to have much political experience, and seems like a sacrificial lamb. It’s unfortunate that Dems can’t find better candidates to challenge Hamper, since Hamper is definitely beatable under the right circumstances. LIKELY R.
District 20 (Auburn and west Androscoggin County): Eric Brakey (R-Auburn)
Obama ’12: 54.11%
Brakey defeated Democrat John Cleveland of Auburn 58-42 in 2014, aided by the Republican wave, which hit Androscoggin County quite hard. Brakey is a libertarian and a Ron Paul acolyte; one of his greatest hits from his time in office is when, only a few days after a massive 60-car pileup on I-95 where miraculously no one died, he introduced a bill repealing Maine’s seat belt law (a law which undoubtedly saved many lives in that 60-car pileup). The Democrat here is Kimberly Sampson of Auburn, a dental hygienist, recent law school graduate, and Emerge Maine graduate. She doesn’t seem like a particularly strong candidate, but hey, neither did Brakey in 2014, and he still won. If Auburnites get tired of Brakey’s schtick, then Sampson could definitely win, but Brakey currently has the edge. LEAN R.
District 21 (Lewiston): Nathan Libby (D-Lewiston)
Obama ’12: 60.60%
This seat is coterminous with the city of Lewiston. Its Democratic incumbent, Nathan Libby, won an unexpectedly close race in 2014, somewhat due to the fact that LePage won Lewiston. Lewiston is normally Democratic, so Libby probably won’t run a close race again. His Republican opponent is William Welch, the chief of the Lewiston Police Department. That’s not a bad position from which to run for office, but Libby is still clearly favored, as a Republican hasn’t won here for over 25 years. LIKELY D.
District 22 (north and east Androscoggin County): Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon)
Obama ’12: 49.24%
This seat was home to the closest state senate race in Maine in 2012, when Mason won re-election by only 28 votes, a margin of 50.07-49.93%. Mason then won re-election 57-43 in 2014 in the midst of the Republican wave that hit Androscoggin County hard. This year, Mason is being challenged by Richard Fochtmann of Leeds, the chair of the Leeds Democratic Town Committee. That means that Fochtmann is pretty much a Some Dude. I must say, I am not impressed by Democratic recruitment in Androscoggin this year, though some of that might be because Democrats were decimated here in 2014. Mason has a clear edge. LIKELY R.
District 23 (Sagadahoc County): Linda Baker (R-Topsham)
Obama ’12: 56.74%
This seat contains the entirety of Sagadahoc County and Dresden in Lincoln County. Baker defeated Democratic incumbent Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic in 2014 by a 47-41 margin, with a Green candidate picking up the remaining 12 percent (and likely handing the election to Baker). This time, there’s no Green candidate, and Vitelli is running again. Baker also faces a primary challenge from Guy Lebida of Bowdoin, who has held several leadership positions in the Sagadahoc County Republican Party. This is another good opportunity for a Democratic pickup. TOSSUP.
District 24 (Brunswick area): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 63.24%
This is a heavily-Democratic and strongly socially-liberal district on the Maine coast. Democratic incumbent Stanley Gerzofsky is term-limited, and the Democrat who will very likely succeed him is Everett “Brownie” Carson of Harpswell, an environmentalist and longtime director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The Republican running is Eric Lusk, also of Harpswell, a former state House candidate and the chair of the Cumberland County Republican Party (a rather thankless task considering Cumberland County’s blueness). This district’s strong Democratic lean will allow Carson to win easily. SAFE D.
District 25 (Falmouth, Cumberland, and Yarmouth): Cathy Breen (D-Falmouth)
Obama ’12: 55.74%
This area is rich, socially liberal, and has the highest voter turnout of anywhere in Maine. This district had an epic 2014 election, where the original vote-counting showed Breen ahead by 39 votes, the resulting recount showed her losing by 10 votes, and the second recount finally showed that 21 ballots for her opponent had been double-counted and that Breen had won by 11 votes. This year, Breen is being challenged by Republican C. Barton Ladd of Falmouth, a pilot who seems like a Some Dude. It’s surprising that Republicans couldn’t find a stronger candidate to take on Breen, since they had several options to choose from, but it looks like Breen got lucky. This is the area of the state where any anti-Trump wave would be strongest, so Breen looks to be pretty safe. Just based on her extremely narrow 2014 win, I’d say this race is LIKELY D.
District 26 (Windham and other areas north of Portland): Bill Diamond (D-Windham)
Obama ’12: 51.27%
G. William “Bill” Diamond is a very popular, moderate Democrat who won 63-37 in 2014. This year, he’s being challenged by Ryan McDonald, also of Windham, a member of the Windham Land Use Ordinance Committee. McDonald doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong challenger; not too surprising since Diamond is a very strong incumbent. Considering how big his win was in 2014, Diamond isn’t in any danger. SAFE D.
District 27 (Inner Portland): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 76.32%
This is the most Democratic district in Maine, and its Democratic incumbent, Justin Alfond, is term-limited. This has caused a flood of candidates (3 Dems, a Rep, and a Green) to file. The three Dems (since they’re the only ones who have any chance of winning here) are state reps Ben Chipman (who used to be a liberal independent) and Diane Russell, and Charles Radis, a rheumatologist. Regardless of which of them (probably Chipman or Russell) wins the Democratic primary, the Democrat will win the general election here. SAFE D.
District 28 (Outer Portland, Westbrook): Open
Obama ’12: 72.01%
This is the second most Democratic district in Maine. Democratic incumbent Anne Haskell has decided not to run for re-election, and just like in the 27th, that has caused three Democrats to file here. And just like in the 27th, two of those Democrats, Mark Dion of Portland and Anne Peoples of Westbrook, are current or former state representatives. The other Democrat here is Jill Duson, a Portland city councilor and delegate to the DNC this year. One of those three will be the next state senator here. SAFE D.
District 29 (South Portland, Cape Elizabeth): Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth)
Obama ’12: 66.63%
This is the third most Democratic district in Maine. Millett, a popular incumbent, faces Republican Daniel Fortin of South Portland, who seems to be a Some Dude. In a district this blue, Millett will win easily. SAFE D.
District 30 (Scarborough, Gorham): Amy Volk (R-Scarborough)
Obama ’12: 54.67%
This district contains most of Scarborough, all of Gorham, and part of Buxton. Volk is a first-term incumbent who defeated Democrat Jim Boyle in 2014 53-47. This year, Volk’s challenger is Jean-Marie Caterina of Scarborough, a real estate agent, town councilor, and unsuccessful state house candidate. Caterina seems to be an okay, but not top-tier, candidate who might not be able to beat Volk on her own, but could ride an anti-Trump wave to victory. It won’t be a landslide either way, but Volk has the edge for now. LEAN R.
District 31 (Saco area): Open Seat
Obama ’12: 59.62%
This district is dominated by Saco and Old Orchard Beach, and includes a few other inland towns. Incumbent Democrat Linda Valentino’s decision to not run for re-election has opened the gates for an epic (and rather unfortunate, in my mind) primary between Saco’s two state representatives: Barry Hobbins, 65 years old and a former state senator, and Justin Chenette, who is 25 years old and openly gay. As you can imagine, the differences between them are much more generational than ideological; they agree on most issues. Both are popular in Saco, and I just hope they stay positive in their primary. Waiting for one of them in the general election will be Republican William Gombar of Old Orchard Beach, the chair of the Old Orchard Beach Republican Town Committee and a former state House candidate. Whichever of Hobbins or Chenette wins their primary will easily defeat Gombar. SAFE D.
District 32 (Biddeford area): Open pending special election on March 29
Obama ’12: 60.53%
This district is dominated by Biddeford and includes several smaller inland towns. This seat has a special election on March 29 due to David Dutremble’s resigning in order to focus more on battling his alcoholism. The two candidates in the special election are two of the same as those in the general election this fall: Democrat Susan Deschambault, a Biddeford City Councilor, and Republican Stephen Martin, who seems to be a Some Dude (or else I can’t find him on Google, since his name is so common). In this heavily Democratic district, Deschambault has the clear edge. The special election is LIKELY D. In the general election, Deschambault will face a primary with Andrea Twomey, a former mayor and state representative from Biddeford. If Deschambault wins the special, the general in November is SAFE D, regardless of who wins that primary. If Martin somehow pulls out a win in the special, the general would be a TOSSUP.
District 33 (Sanford area): David Woodsome (R-Waterboro)
Obama ’12: 55.28%
This district is based in the major town of Sanford and includes some small rural towns north of it. Woodsome crushed Democratic incumbent John Tuttle of Sanford in 2014 by a 59-41 margin, and he’s running again. His Democratic challenger is Andrea Boland, a former state representative from Sanford who almost defeated Tuttle in the 2014 Democratic primary. If Boland can get a good margin out of Sanford, Woodsome’s inevitable margins in the rural towns won’t be enough for him to win. I think this will be a close one. TOSSUP.
District 34 (Berwick, Wells, Kennebunk): Ronald Collins (R-Wells)
Obama ’12: 52.35%
Collins won a three-way race in 2014 with 49 percent of the vote, as a Democrat ran as an independent and split the left-leaning vote. This year, Collins’ Democratic challenger is Jonathan Kilbourn of Kennebunk, the elected Light & Power Trustee of Kennebunk (this position must be the closest Maine equivalent to dog-catcher). He doesn’t seem like a very strong candidate, which is unfortunate since Collins is definitely beatable and Democrats had several better candidates to choose from. However, Collins didn’t get over 50% in either 2012 or 2014, so he’s not massively popular either. If the same Democrat who ran as an Indie in 2012 and 2014 runs again this year, this race goes to LIKELY R. If not, then it’s LEAN R.
District 35 (York, Kittery): Dawn Hill (D-York)
Obama ’12: 58.11%
This district is located at the southern tip of Maine. Hill is a strong incumbent who got 60 percent in 2014. Her Republican challenger is Theodor Short of South Berwick, the police chief of the town of Eliot. While not a terrible candidate, it doesn’t look like Short has the political chops to seriously challenge Hill. And in a Democratic district with a strong Democratic incumbent, that makes the race SAFE D.
Therefore, this leaves:
8 Safe D (5,24,26,27,28,29,31,35)
7 Likely D (1,9,12,18,21,25,32)
2 Lean D (13,14)
6 Tossup (2,7,11,16,23,33)
3 Lean R (20,30,34)
5 Likely R (3,6,8,19,22)
4 Safe R (4,10,15,17)
Thus, for Democrats to retake the state senate, they need to win every race that currently favors them, and at least one of the tossups. This seems very doable to me.
Thank you for reading, and I welcome any questions, comments, or concerns!