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November 7, 2018

Result of Golden-Poliquin race comes down to ranked choice

Courtesy / Office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin
Courtesy / Office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin
The reelection bid of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine District 2, remains in limbo this morning, pending results of ranked-choice tallying with his Democratic challenger Jared Golden. Both candidates received less than 50% of the vote, triggering the ranked-choice process.

The 2nd District race between Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Jared Golden will be the first in a Maine regular election to be decided by ranked-choice voting.

In the two other races for Congress, incumbents U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and 1st District U.S. Rep.Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, cruised to victory Tuesday.

Golden, of Lewiston, the Maine House assistant majority leader, and two-term U.S. Rep. Poliquin both had about 46% of the vote in the district, which covers nearly three-quarters of the state, including the north and western areas. Independents Tiffany Bond and William Hoar trailed, with 6% and 2%, respectively, with some of the district's 404 precincts yet to report this morning.

During the campaign, deemed the most expensive in state history, Golden hammered Poliquin on the congressman's vow to replace the Affordable Care Act with a Republican-written health care plan. Golden said, if elected, his top priority is Medicare expansion.

Poliquin has said he wants to lower the cost of health care, and advocates for one that he says provides free-market solutions to lower costs.

The Washington Post reported Monday that $12 million in outside money was spent on the race, a state record.

The contest will be the first in a Maine non-primary election to be decided by ranked choice voting. Since neither leading candidate got more than 50% of the vote, votes for the two independent candidates will be discarded in favor of the the second choice by those who voted for the two.

The ranked choice winner will be decided by the Department of the Secretary of State's official vote count "as soon as [results] are available, likely the week of Nov. 12," according to the office's website.

In the other two races for Congress, King got 55% of the vote, Republican challenger Eric Brakey got 35% and Democrat Zak Ringelstein 11%.

Pingree got 60% in the district that includes Portland and much of southern Maine. Republican challenger Mark Holbrook got 31%, and independent Martin Grohman 9%.

The three races were the only statewide ones to include ranked-choice voting, though it didn't come into play in the Senate and 1st District races, because both winning candidates got more than 50% of the vote.

The race for governor and state Legislature don't use ranked choice, because the state Supreme Court last year ruled the form of voting doesn't conform to the state constitution, which holds that candidates for those offices must be elected by a plurality, which means simply more than anyone else. Federal office, however, isn't under the jurisdiction of the state constitution.

All vote totals are unofficial until the secretary of state's office certifies them in the coming weeks.

Independent King kept his U.S. Senate seat with 54.6% of the vote, beating Republican Erik Brakey, who had 34.9% and Democrat Zak Ringlestein, who had 10.5%.

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