ELLSWORTH — Maine voters chose Democrat Janet Mills to be the state’s first female governor on Tuesday.
With 74 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, Mills had captured 50 percent of the vote statewide. Republican candidate Shawn Moody trailed Mills by six percentage points. He conceded the race early Wednesday.
Hancock County voters also chose Mills, with 14,037 votes reported for the state’s attorney general. The margin for Mills was wider than in the 2014 gubernatorial race, when county voters picked Governor Paul LePage by a mere nine votes over Democratic challenger Mike Michaud.
In Hancock County this time around, Moody captured 40 percent of the vote to Mills’ nearly 54 percent.
Independent Terry Hayes was eclipsed by Mills and Moody, receiving around 6 percent of the vote statewide and 1,455 votes in Hancock County. Votes for independent Alan Caron were counted as blanks, as Caron dropped out of the race several weeks ago.
Ellsworth went for Mills — 1,745 votes to Moody’s 1,698 — while voters in Bucksport gave Moody a slight edge of fewer than 50 votes. Bar Harbor, Blue Hill and Brooksville voters chose the 70-year-old Farmington resident Mills, while those in Hancock, Dedham and Franklin picked 58-year-old Moody, although just barely.
Newcomers were unable to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who held on to his seat in the Senate, garnering 54 percent of the vote statewide. That number mirrored Hancock County, where slightly less than 55 percent of voters chose King over Republican challenger Eric Brakey, who got around 35 percent of the county vote. Democrat Zak Ringelstein trailed the two men at 10 percent, both statewide and in Hancock County.
As of Tuesday evening, Brakey had yet to concede to King, according to the Portland Press Herald. Ringelstein has conceded the race.
It was the first U.S. Senate election using ranked choice voting (RCV). King was spared an instant runoff, which would have kicked in had he not captured at least 50 percent of the vote. It will be the 74-year-old former governor’s second term in the Senate and, he has said, likely his last.
Nationally, Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate, gaining two seats. Democrats gained a Senate seat in Nevada but lost three others, in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana. King is one of two independent senators nationwide, the other being Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The country will go forward with a divided Congress, as Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives, flipping Republican-held seats in New York, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Arizona, among others.
Maine’s House race for the 2nd Congressional District between Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin and Democratic challenger Jared Golden looked headed to an RCV runoff on Tuesday. None of the four candidates on the ballot, including independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar, received a majority of the vote.
Voter turnout in Hancock County was higher than the 2014 midterms. Sixty-three percent of 42,817 registered voters cast ballots, compared to 61 percent in 2014. Statewide turnout numbers were not available Wednesday morning, but Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told the Portland Press Herald he was sticking with his 65 percent prediction.
That would be historic. Average turnout in midterms has hovered around 51 percent since the late 1940s, and the 2014 turnout (59 percent) was the largest in recent history.
As in 2014, Hancock County turnout was highest in Great Pond, where 37 out of 44 registered voters (87 percent) cast ballots, and lowest in Castine, where 461 out of 1,055 (44 percent) did so.