Maine Republicans and conservative candidates posted victories last night in a State House special election and a handful local elections.
Republican Rep.-elect Abden Simmons topped Democratic candidate Wendy Pieh 52-48 percent in a special election for House District 45.
Republicans welcomed Abden’s win as a reassuring sign that the party might be shaking off the struggles evident last November, when a much-predicted Red Wave failed to materialize nationwide.
“Abden’s victory tonight is an indication that changes are happening in the State of Maine,” said House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor).
Abden’s district contains the towns of Bremen, Friendship, Louds Island Township, Waldoboro, and Washington. In 2022, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills won Bremen and narrowly lost Waldoboro, while losing Friendship and Washington handily.
Democratic Rep. Clinton E. Collamore’s resignation after he pleading not guilty to fraud charges prompted the special election.
Those charges stemmed from the Maine Ethics Commission’s allegation that he forged signatures in order to qualify for taxpayer-funded campaign cash.
Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage said Abden was a great candidate, but he also credited top Democrats in Maine and Washington, D.C. for triggering backlash against left-wing policies.
“Abden and the Republican team were great, but I’ll also point out that Joe Biden, Janet Mills, Troy Jackson, and Rachel Talbot Ross have made consistent headlines in recent months for proposing and supporting far, far left wing policies,” Savage said.
Talbott Ross has recently backed proposals that would reduce penalties for homeless people who trespass on private property, expand Medicaid to illegal aliens, and one to make it easier for criminal offenders to sue cops for discrimination, among other headline-making bills.
The House 45 race won’t meaningfully alter the dynamic at the State House, where Democrats enjoy two majorities and caucuses that are rigidly loyal to Democratic leadership.
But it will provide Republicans with a glimmer of hope following a dispiriting 2022 cycle.
A similar dynamic may have played out in the Hermon, where voters elected three conservative candidates to the city council and school board.
Town Councilor Ronald Murphy won re-election in a coalition bid with Christopher Gray, who will join the Council for the first time. Both are conservative.
Brian Veneziano, who co-campaigned with Murphy and Gray, ousted liberal Kristen Shorey from the school board by less than 40 votes.
If left-wing overreach fueled Abden’s win, it was probably more of a factor in Hermon’s local races, where controversies over pornographic books in the school libraries have raised the temperature of school board meetings.
Shorey, having served a three-year term, often found herself in the middle of those controversies.
Conservatives will still remain a minority on the school committee.
Although Republicans had much to be happy about last night, the city of Portland continued its erosion of private property rights and free markets.
Voters in Maine’s largest city rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed landlords to increase rent to adjust for increased inflation and higher taxes.
The proposal was an effort by a coalition of landlords to eliminate what they saw as perverse incentives contained in the rent control ordinance.
At the same time, voters approved higher property taxes.
The campaign against the measure was led by the Maine Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, a group that openly advocates state seizure of property.
The DSA says in its political platform that its goal is to create an “insurgent tenant movement” that will cancel rent and close eviction courts, force landlords out of the market, and use “state action to acquire private property” and transform it into public “democratically controlled housing.”
That project might best be described as a communist utopia.
With the latest attempt to rein in rent control failing, developers will have little incentive to build any housing in Portland, apart from new homeless shelters.