The share of Maine voters residing within the suburbs has elevated over the previous decade, making for a potent political constituency set to play an necessary function within the important matchup between Gov. Janet Mills and former Gov. Paul LePage this 12 months.
Maine has seen growing geographic polarization over the previous twenty years, with coastal and southern components of the state typically trending liberal whereas inland areas flip extra conservative. It displays nationwide tendencies of rising conservatism amongst rural voters and a shift to Democrats in suburban areas, though Republicans are hoping to reverse the latter shift this 12 months.
To what extent they can win again suburban votes in Maine may form the tight gubernatorial race between Mills and LePage. Portland suburbs had been among the many locations the place Republicans made features in 2010 when LePage took the Blaine Home and helped him maintain his reelection 4 years later. However they’ve grown larger and extra Democratic since then, a problem for the previous governor’s return bid.
Between 2010 and 2020, Maine added roughly 34,000 residents on web, in accordance with U.S. Census information. Simply 10 fast-growing municipalities — Scarborough, Westbrook, Gorham, Saco, Wells, South Portland, Windham, Biddeford, Cumberland and Falmouth — accounted for greater than half of the expansion.
Every of these cities additionally trended towards Democrats when it comes to voter registration over that point interval. However not all are liberal locks, and margins may matter in a good race. When LePage received reelection in 2014, he did it partly by holding the race shut within the Portland suburbs, profitable 43 p.c of the vote in Falmouth and 47 p.c in Scarborough in a three-way race with Democrat Mike Michaud and unbiased Eliot Cutler.
Mills received each of these cities in 2018. Since then, voter registration information suggests they’ve grown much more liberal, including a mixed roughly 2,600 registered Democratic voters.
However registration information is an imperfect indicator. Sen. Susan Collins, who received reelection with 51 p.c of the vote statewide in 2020, received a majority of votes in Gorham, Windham and Wells regardless of now-President Joe Biden additionally profitable every of these cities the identical 12 months and Democrats vastly outnumbering Republicans in registered voters.
A LePage spokesperson declined to touch upon his strategy to suburban voters, saying the governor’s marketing campaign doesn’t converse publicly about technique. However LePage has regarded to attract consideration to sure points thought to have pushed Republican success in suburbs in different states, resembling education, talking often on the marketing campaign path concerning the want for a “mother and father’ invoice of rights,” which he has vaguely defined as offering a mechanism to make sure mother and father are heard at college board conferences.
Nationally, there have been indications of suburban voters transferring again towards Republicans, significantly on account of frustrations about faculties, famous former state Sen. Amy Volk, a Republican from Scarborough who received a number of aggressive races elections earlier than being ousted in 2018. However regardless of distant education in Maine through the pandemic, she has not seen such a shift within the Portland space.
“You possibly can have individuals who haven’t voted Republican in a very long time taking a second take a look at the Republican ticket, however personally, I’m not tremendous satisfied that that’s going to be the case in Maine,” Volk mentioned.
Polling to date has proven a good gubernatorial race, with Mills main by a couple of factors in public polls however inside the margin of error. The battle for management of each chambers of the Maine Legislature can be anticipated to be extremely aggressive, with latest generic poll polling displaying a digital tie.
Drew Gattine, chair of the Maine Democratic Get together and a former state consultant from Westbrook who’s operating once more this 12 months, mentioned there was not a lot of a distinction between rural and suburban legislative districts, saying even some districts not removed from Portland include rural areas.
He dismissed the electoral affect of demographic modifications, saying he didn’t take into consideration the inhabitants development in areas like his as “politically advantageous” for both get together.
“There are some actual sensible variations between residing in populated areas and residing in much less densely populated areas,” Gattine mentioned. “However I believe on the finish of the day, individuals really need the identical factor.”
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