AP Decision Notes: What to expect during the Maine state primaries

AP Decision Notes: What to expect during the Maine state primaries


WASHINGTON (AP) — Maine voters have already cast their ballots for president, but on Tuesday they’re back at it in the state’s primaries. This time, voters will choose two nominees who will compete for a seat in the U.S. House, which could be crucial in determining which party wins the majority.

When former President Donald Trump won Maine’s Second District in 2016, it seemed like another sign that the largely rural district was moving even further away from Democrats. Maine allocates a portion of its Electoral College votes to the winners of individual congressional districts, giving Trump a boost despite his statewide loss. Just two years earlier, Republican Bruce Poliquin replaced Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But the trend toward Republicans hit a roadblock in 2018, when Democrat Jared Golden defeated Poliquin. Even when Trump won the 2nd District again in 2020, Golden continued to win reelection.

This time, however, Republicans including Trump and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson are hoping state Rep. Austin Theriault, a former NASCAR driver, can defeat Golden. But first Theriault must pass the primaries.

Here’s what to expect on Tuesday:

The primary election will be held on Tuesday. Polls close at 8:00 PM ET.

The Associated Press will report on 20 contested races, including Republican primaries in both of Maine’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The remaining races are primaries for the state House and Senate.

Registered party members may only vote in the primaries of their own party. In other words, Democrats cannot vote in Republican primaries, and vice versa. However, voters who have not registered with a political party can still join the polling stations and participate in any primaries.

Maine is divided into two congressional districts: a Democratic-leaning district in the south and a political battleground in the north.

In the northern 2nd District, Republicans have become increasingly successful in elections in recent years, especially since Trump was first elected. The cities and counties where Trump received the most votes in 2020 could be strong areas for Theriault, who received Trump’s support. That includes Penobscot County, home to Bangor, and Oxford County, which shares a border with New Hampshire. Both provinces also include casinos. While Democrat Joe Biden captured the city of Auburn in Androscoggin County, which borders the 1st District, in the 2020 presidential election, Trump still received a significant amount of votes there as well.

In the state legislature, Theriault represents a district on the northern tip of Maine in Fort Kent. During this year’s presidential primaries, Trump received 87% of the vote, or 205 votes, in Fort Kent. But Trump also won dozens of small surrounding towns by overwhelming margins, a pattern Theriault hopes to repeat to build a winning coalition in the primaries.

Theriault has a big financial advantage over the other Republican on the ballot, state Rep. Michael Soboleski. As of the May 22 filing deadline, Theriault had raised $1.2 million, while Soboleski had raised $117,000.

Soboleski’s district includes Franklin, Somerset and Oxford counties. Dale Crafts, the 2020 Republican nominee, has endorsed Soboleski, as have several state lawmakers.

In the 1st District, anchored by Portland, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree unopposed in a seat she has held since 2010. It is also a district that Biden won in 2020 and that Hillary Clinton won against Trump in the 2016 general election.

Maine uses ranked choice for legislative primaries with more than two candidates on the ballot. In most elections on Tuesday, there are only two candidates to choose from, but there are two State House races in which voters can rank their choice of candidates on the ballot. Ranked-choice voting only takes effect if no candidate receives 50% of the vote based on voters’ first choices. In Cape Elizabeth, there are three candidates on the Democratic ballot for the state legislature in District 123. In Portland, three Democrats are running for the 118th district.

The AP does not make forecasts and will only declare a winner if it has been established that there is no scenario with which the underlying candidates can close the gap. If no race is called, the AP will continue to report on any newsworthy developments, such as concessions to candidates or declarations of victory. The AP will make it clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

Candidates can request a recount regardless of the margin of the race.

As of March 5, there were 1,150,204 registered voters in Maine. Of those, 35% were Democrats and 28% were Republicans.

In the 2022 gubernatorial primary, turnout was 6% of the 1,117,145 registered voters in the Democratic primary and 5% in the Republican primary. Both races were uncontested.

In the June 2022 primary, approximately 12% of votes in that election were cast before Election Day.

This year, a total of 16,194 votes had been cast before Election Day as of June 5, about 55% in the Democratic primaries and 31% in the Republican primaries.

In the 2022 Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, the AP first reported results at 8:17 p.m. ET, or 17 minutes after polls closed. Election night tabulation ended at 2:16 a.m. ET with approximately 79% of the total votes counted.

As of Tuesday, there are 147 days until the November general election.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 elections at

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