State of Maine: Not a lot of love for Fredette

It’s all over but the counting. The 2018 primaries are a wrap. Voter turnout fluctuated significantly from town to town but probably was under 40 percent statewide. That means about two-thirds of registered voters stayed home despite the past year’s obsession with all things political.

Republican turnout was down substantially (about 30 percent) compared to the 2010 primaries. On the plus side for Republicans, Republican Shawn Moody hit it out of the park, hauling in over 56 percent of the vote and winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination on the first ballot under ranked-choice voting.

No one laid a glove on him. Garrett Mason, Senate majority leader, was a distant second with 22 percent of the vote. Mary Mayhew, a born-again Republican in the Paul LePage mode after a long career as a Democrat, won just 15 percent of Republican affection, and Ken Fredette, well, let’s talk about Fredette.

House Minority Leader Fredette was the most loyal foot soldier for Gov. LePage there ever has been. He backed the governor’s every move and brought his caucus along with him. Bills the House Republicans supported on enactment votes were summarily killed by them if the governor opted to veto, with Fredette leading the charge.

The governor did not return the favor. LePage associates (former staffers as well as his daughter) went with the Moody campaign, and LePage gave no signal that his heart was elsewhere. Fredette ended up with an embarrassing 5.7 percent of the vote. So much for foot-soldiering.

Democrats showed up at the polls in force, but the seven-person race for the Democratic nomination for governor yielded no majority winner. Candidates Janet Mills and Adam Cote got first and second place, respectively, with over 61 percent of the vote between them. The rest of the field split the remaining 39 percent.

Mark Eves managed just half the number of votes Cote won, with Betsy Sweet a whisker ahead of him. Eves was the heir apparent for Democrats, but voters turned away from current and past members of legislative leadership in the governor’s race. Mills is the only former legislator among the primaries’ top finishers. Mark Dion, Diane Russell and Donna Dion trailed the Democrat pack, each in the low single digits.

It will take more rounds of RCV tabulating to determine the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The process of gathering up ballots and delivering them to Augusta for further tabulation under the RCV ground rules began the day after the election. As of this writing, it is not complete.

The 2nd Congressional District race is leaning hard toward Jared Golden, whose legislative leadership post did not hurt him. Lucas St. Clair sent out an email all but conceding, but since Golden did not reach 50 percent, the race awaits official word from the RCV process.

Democrats are hoping that Golden’s history as an active-duty veteran will help him take down incumbent Bruce Poliquin, who has as much baggage as he has funding, lots of each. Golden will have a shot at it, but a two-term incumbent is hard to unseat.

In the only legislative primary in Hancock County, term-limited Rep. Louie Luchini easily bested Ian Schwarz of Mount Desert Island in the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat Brian Langley is vacating due to term limits. Luchini won about 68 percent of the vote. County results showed the same distribution as state results as far as the order in which the candidates finished.

Town clerks are heroes. For this and every election, they provide service above and beyond the call of duty. An element of obsessive-compulsive disorder is a job requirement for clerks, and that trait was exhibited in spades during this election. Difficult enough that every last “i” must be dotted and every “t” crossed, now the clerks are faced with ranked-choice voting.

New requirements, new forms, new reports. And when the polls closed at 8 p.m., the clerks’ work was not over. After a long day of voting, ballots were boxed up, boxes secured with tamper-proof seals, labeled and padlocked. There were witnesses to all this, one from each party, and each step of the process was documented and attested to.

The polls were disassembled, voting booths and ballot-counting machines locked up, voter lists and unused ballots stowed away. Clerks counted and kept “spoiled” ballots this year to help evaluate the new RCV system. Those are ballots on which a voter declared an error, turned in a ballot and was issued another.

It was a lucky clerk who managed to grab a bite of a sandwich or a swallow of coffee in a 16-hour day. A tip of the hat to all those who worked so hard to keep our elections orderly and secure.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

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.

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