Many people think of Maine as mostly homogenous in its politics, with just the blue dot of Portland, some sparsely-populated Republican rural areas, and most of the rest of the state being politically moderate. While it is easy to see how this idea originated, it belies the true diversity of Maine’s political geography. The whole state is hardly politically homogenous; in fact, few of the individual counties are politically homogenous. Knowing which areas of the state are more Democratic or Republican than average, and why, would give people a much better understanding of Maine as a whole. In this series, I will explain in detail the political geography of Maine, using the 16 counties and 35 State Senate districts as organization. I will also talk about how the State Senate districts changed in the recently-completed redistricting, and what effect this may have on the 2014 State Senate elections.
Finally, at the end of this series, I will present a hypothetical Democratic gerrymander of the Maine State Senate. I will explain how I used the 2012 election results to determine where the incumbents are strongest and weakest, and how I used that information to draw the districts to the Democrats’ advantage.
This will be presented as a series with seven parts:
1. SW Maine: York and Cumberland Counties
2. Mid-Coast Maine: Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo Counties
3. Central Maine: Androscoggin and Kennebec Counties
4. Down East: Hancock and Washington Counties
5. NW Maine: Oxford, Franklin, and Somerset Counties
6. North-central and Northern Maine: Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Aroostook Counties
7. Hypothetical Democratic Gerrymander of the Maine State Senate
Color code for the maps below (and for all other maps like this that I draw):
Darkest blue: 80%+ for Democrats
Dark blue: 70-79.99% for Democrats
Normal blue: 60-69.99% for Democrats
Lighter blue: 55-59.99% for Democrats
Lightest blue: 50-54.99% for Democrats
Yellow: No candidate received an absolute majority of votes
Pink: 50-54.99% for Republicans
Normal red: 55-59.99% for Republicans
Brown: 60-69.99% for Republicans
Dark red: 70-79.99% for Republicans
Darkest red: 80%+ for Republicans
Gray on the State Senate map represents towns won by independent candidates. White represents towns where no one voted.
Here is a map of Obama’s performance by town in 2012:
Here is a map of Maine’s Question 1 (gay marriage) in 2012 (blue indicates yes, red indicates no):
Here is a map of Maine’s State Senate results in 2012:
Follow me over the fold to begin… with York County!
York is Maine’s southernmost and second-most-populous county. Its major towns are Biddeford, Saco, Sanford, York, and Kennebunk. Overall, York is a solidly Democratic county, but there is a substantial divide between the more-liberal coastal towns (where most of the large towns are) and the moderate inland towns (most of which are quite small). The coastal towns all voted for Obama, and most by large margins. The coastal towns also all voted for Question 1 (gay marriage; yes = support) by large margins as well, providing all of York’s margin of victory for Question 1. The largest inland town is Sanford, which leans Democratic, while all the other inland towns are quite moderate. The inland towns were, overall, pretty evenly divided on Question 1.
York County forms the base of five State Senate districts. In the old redistricting map, these were districts 1-5, in the new map they are districts 31-35. All but one are held by Democrats. Luckily for Democrats, none of them contain only coastal towns; the four districts that touch the coast all go inland to take in less-Democratic areas inland. However, the four districts that touch the coast are all represented by people from coastal towns, and all five State Senators live in the largest town in their districts. The only district held by a Republican is the 34th/2nd, represented by Ronald Collins of Wells (one of the more moderate coastal towns). John Tuttle (D-Sanford) represents the only inland district, while the other three are coastal districts held by Democrats. In the 2013 redistricting, none of the districts changed dramatically, however Collins’ district got about 2 points more Democratic, mostly by losing some inland areas. The three other coastal districts are all safe for the Democrats, while the Sanford district is not quite so Democratic, however Tuttle had a dominating win in 2012 against an opponent who was also from Sanford, so he should be safe. Collins should be a top target of the Democrats in 2014, considering he only won 46% of the vote in a 3-way race in 2012.
Cumberland is Maine’s most populous county by far, containing Portland and its suburbs, as well as Brunswick (home of Bowdoin College) and all the towns surrounding Sebago Lake, one of Maine’s largest lakes. It is the most Democratic county in Maine, with a strongly liberal base in Portland, and no heavily Republican areas anywhere (with one tiny exception that I will discuss soon). Some of Portland’s suburbs are strongly liberal (such as South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, and Westbrook) and others are more moderate (such as Scarborough, Gorham, Windham, and Falmouth). The towns that surround Sebago Lake are mostly similar in partisanship, and mostly voted 51-53% for Obama in 2012. The one Republican enclave here is Frye Island, an island in the middle of Sebago Lake that is Maine’s newest town. Frye Island’s tiny population consists almost entirely of affluent, seasonal residents who incorporated the town to avoid paying high property taxes. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Frye Island is strongly Republican; however it is so small that it has barely any impact on elections.
Cumberland is by and large a very socially liberal county, however, just as in York County, there is a substantial divide between the coastal and inland towns. Gay marriage (in 2012) outperformed Obama countywide and in most of the coastal towns, some (such as Scarborough, Falmouth, and Cumberland) by wide margins. However, Question 1 did worse inland, and Obama slightly outperformed Question 1 in most of the towns surrounding Sebago Lake. This coastal/inland divide is especially stark if seen on a town-by-town map.
Cumberland contains seven whole State Senate districts, and half of an eighth. Of these, four are safe-Democratic coastal districts (the old 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th), one is a lean-Democratic suburban district (the old 6th), one is a liberal-leaning coastal district (the old 11th), one is a moderate mix of Portland suburbs and Sebago shoreline (the old 12th), and the ‘half’ also contains some of southern Oxford County (where its incumbent lives). I’ll discuss this one when I get to Oxford County.
The 6th district is currently represented by James Boyle (D-Gorham). He won 55-45 in 2012, and he’ll need that strength, because his district got two points more Republican in redistricting; by removing Westbrook and adding Buxton. The 11th district, at first glance, would seem to be Democratic; it voted 55% for Obama in 2012 and got a point more Democratic in redistricting. However, it is represented by left-leaning independent Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth. Woodbury narrowly won re-election in 2012 facing only a Republican; he seems to be popular among Democrats. The 12th used to be a Democratic-held seat, however in 2012 our incumbent was termed out, and Democrats royally screwed up by not nominating a candidate, allowing Gary Plummer (R-Windham) to defeat an Independent with 61% of the vote. However, the district voted 52% for Obama in 2012, and only got 0.35% more Republican in redistricting, so this is definitely a winnable seat, the Democrats will just need a good candidate.
As for the safe Democratic seats, the 7th is based in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. This was Cynthia Dill’s seat before she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and got 13% of the vote. The current incumbent is Rebecca Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth). The 8th and 9th are the two Portland seats, and the Senator for the 8th district is Justin Alfond, who is the President of the Senate. Finally, the 10th district is the Brunswick seat (Brunswick is home to Bowdoin), and it is represented by Stanley Gerzofsky (D-Brunswick). Democrats won those districts all by wide margins.
This concludes Part 1 of my series. In the remainder of my series, I will talk more about the partisanship of individual towns, as all the other regions of Maine are much less populous than this one.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and I welcome any feedback or questions!