With a $1.3 million campaign that dominated their opponents, it was no surprise that Question 1 supporters were able to claim victory Tuesday night. At the end of the night, liberals had won on the most high-profile issue of the 2015 election cycle.
The real story, however, is the conservative victories at the local level.
Republicans won both special elections for the House of Representatives on Tuesday night. While that’s hardly enough to change the balance of power in the House, the Maine GOP hailed their victory as a win for conservatives.
“These results show what we at the Maine GOP already knew – our message, our principles, and our candidates can win anywhere,” said Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett. “Going forward, Democrats should know that their liberal agenda will be challenged at every turn, and defeated.”
Conservatives were able to claim mixed wins in the state’s three major mayoral races. In Auburn, incumbent Republican Jonathan LaBonte decisively won reelection. In neighbouring Lewiston, incumbent mayor Republican Bob Macdonald came close to defeating progressive candidate Ben Chin, and both will now head into a runoff election. While this may not sound like a conservative victory on its face, context is important here. Ben Chin has raised over $60,000 so far in his campaign, and was still raising money on election day. His opponent, Macdonald, had raised less than $2,000 according to his last campaign finance filing. In addition to vastly outspending his opponent, Ben Chin has also wielded the full power of his far-left political organization, the Maine People’s Alliance, to organize in Lewiston. Despite a well-stocked war chest and the backing of the state’s largest progressive organization, Chin only won by a few hundred votes, which bodes well for Macdonald in the runoff election.
While no conservative candidates for mayor were on the ballot in Portland, it was Ethan Strimling, largely considered the least progressive of the three mayoral candidates, who commanded over 50% of the vote and will be the city’s next mayor.
In addition, conservatives claimed victory on both municipal referenda in Portland. Voters in Maine’s most liberal city struck down a $15 minimum wage as well as a scenic viewpoint ordinance which could have crushed economic development in Portland. While Portland is hardly a bastion of conservative policy, Tuesday’s vote shows that there are limits to how far a city, even one as liberal as Portland. is willing to go. By electing the least progressive mayoral candidate and striking down two liberal referenda, Portland voters are sending signals that they may be growing tired of the city’s ongoing march to the left.
With an onslaught of out-of-state funding from national progressive organizations, supporters of Question 1 in Maine easily claimed victory on election night. However, Maine’s professional Left should be concerned with the results at the local level. While conservatives were unable to overcome the national progressive forces behind Question 1, they were able resist the liberal agenda elsewhere in Maine, defeating ballot initiatives in Portland and pushing back against the Maine People’s Alliance in Lewiston.