As of March 15, the list of party candidates for the June primary elections is finalized. Much of it went as expected in Hancock County, and at the state and federal levels as well. Yet some general election fun is promised by “open” seats, meaning those without an incumbent running.
Neither of Maine’s U.S. senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, is up for re-election this year. For the U.S. House, most of Maine’s geography (including Hancock County) is in the 2nd Congressional District. Because political districts are meant to be as close in size as possible, population-wise, the 1st CD is a shrimpy little bit of southern Maine where half of the state population lives.
Incumbent Congressman Jared Golden is unopposed in the 2nd CD Democratic primary, while Republican Bruce Poliquin, who lost to Golden two years ago, has a primary challenger in Elizabeth Caruso, a selectman in Caratunk, population 66. She will have an uphill battle; Republicans have already anointed Poliquin as the candidate of choice.
Poliquin held the seat before Jared Golden, but he has never been able to get much warmth going with the electorate. That helped Golden pull off an upset against incumbent Poliquin in 2020. Caruso might just have the charisma to do what Poliquin couldn’t in a matchup with Jared Golden, but the party knows best, right? Odds are she won’t get the chance.
Democratic Governor Janet Mills and former Republican governor Paul LePage are the only party candidates running for governor. Neither has a primary and there are no remaining gubernatorial candidates from Maine’s other qualified political parties, Green Independent and Libertarian. Two Democrats, two Republicans, a Green Independent and a Libertarian who had all filed campaign finance reports folded their tents and silently slipped away. What if Angus got into the race and made it a battle of the titans, three Maine governors going head-to-head? OK, that’s not happening. But it would be cool.
There is a potential independent candidate for governor who has until June to gather the required number of signatures to get on the ballot. Sam Hunkler, a retired physician from Jonesport, has taken out petitions to do just that. He does not have the base, know-how or resources of independents such as Eliot Cutler and Angus King, but he has a case to make, and he is determined to make it.
For the Maine Legislature, all seats are up for election every two years. In the Senate, every seat has a candidate from each party. Only three seats have primary contests for the Democrats; likewise, Republicans also have three contested primaries.
Rep. Nicole Grohoski and former Sen. Brian Langley, both of Ellsworth, are running for state Senate District 7, which has been reconfigured pursuant to redistricting. Neither has a primary opponent. They are also both running in a special election, on the same day as the June primary, for Senate District 7 in its current composition, the seat held by Louie Luchini, who resigned in January. The winner of the special election will serve until the 2022 election, so one of the two will be an incumbent in November.
Sen. Kimberley Rosen (R-Bucksport) is term-limited. Republicans Robert Cross (Dedham) and Peter Lyford (Eddington) will compete in the primary and the winner will face Democrat Ralph Cammack (Brewer) for the Senate seat in November.
State House districts have also been reconfigured through redistricting and renumbered as well. Republican Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor is the only Hancock County legislator with no opposition. (An independent could still qualify for the November ballot but none are on the horizon.)
Candidates for the Ellsworth seat being vacated by Rep. Grohoski are Republican John Linnehan and Democrat Barbara Reeve, both of Ellsworth. Incumbent Republican Sherm Hutchins of Penobscot is being challenged by activist Pam Person, a Democrat from Orland. In House District 14, Bar Harbor and Lamoine, there is a Republican primary between Stephen Coston of Bar Harbor and Duncan Haass of Lamoine. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Lynne Williams (Bar Harbor).
Republican Stephen Hanrahan of Brooksville and Democrat Nina Milliken of Blue Hill are running for the seat formerly held by Sarah Pebworth, a two-term legislator who has declined to run again. Genevieve McDonald of Stonington has also opted out after serving two terms. Holly Eaton, a Democrat from Deer Isle, and Jason Joyce, a Republican from Swan’s Island, are running for the seat. Republican Richard Campbell of Orrington, no stranger to the Maine House, is running for House District 19. He has no opposition.
Once the June primaries are over there will be a hiatus as Maine does what Maine does best – summer. The candidates will be busy preparing, fundraising and participating in summer activities in their would-be districts, but the rest of us will wait until fall to give the November election serious consideration.
Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.