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LePage Endorsee Dale Crafts Leading GOP Congressional Primary in Maine

July 15, 2020

Former state representative Dale Crafts won an approximately 45 percent plurality in the Republican primary for Maine’s Second Congressional District, which seems likely to get him the nomination.

Crafts, who was endorsed by former Maine governor Paul LePage, a conservative, is leading a three-way race that will now be determined by second-choice selections in Maine’s ranked-choice voting system. Final results probably won’t be known for days.

It’s a closely watched race, because Republicans have a decent chance at flipping the seat, which is currently held by U.S. Representative Jared Golden, a Democrat.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, carried the district by about 10 percentage points in 2016.

With 73.8 percent of the votes reported late Tuesday, July 14, Crafts had 45 percent, former LePage spokesman Adrienne Bennett had 31 percent, and former state senator Eric Brakey had 24 percent, according to The Bangor Daily News.

Once all the votes are counted, if Crafts doesn’t win an outright majority then Brakey will be eliminated, and the second-choice selections of voters who voted for Brakey will be distributed between Crafts and Bennett.

Whichever of the two gets the highest number of votes plus second-choice selections will be declared the winner and will take on Golden in November.

Crafts, 61, of Lisbon Falls, is a businessman who served in the Maine House of Representatives from 2008 to 2016. He is pro-life and supports the Second Amendment, according to his campaign web site. He is also a Trump supporter. He has been wheelchair-bound since a motorcycle accident in 1983.

Brakey, 31, a pro-life, libertarian-leaning Republican who ran Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in Maine, criticized Crafts during the campaign for not supporting an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

Brakey served as a Maine state senator from 2014 to 2018 and was the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018, losing to U.S. Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Brakey particularly touts his record on guns in the state Senate, including his sponsoring the bill that is now the state’s law allowing residents to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

Late Tuesday night, after conceding the Second Congressional District primary, Brakey said he would endorse Crafts if Crafts would endorse removing American troops from Afghanistan, according to The Bangor Daily News. Crafts said he did not have an immediate response.

Bennett, 41, a pro-life conservative and former television reporter who served as LePage’s spokesman from 2010 to 2017, could theoretically still win the primary. She works as a real estate agent and is a single mother. LePage is June called her “a dear friend,” but said she “does not have the necessary policy or leadership experience … or the temperament” to serve in Congress.

LePage, who served as governor from 2010 to 2018, has hinted that he may run for governor again in 2022 against Democratic incumbent Janet Mills.

In Maine’s Second Congressional District, the Democratic incumbent Golden is considered vulnerable.

Golden won the Second Congressional District seat in November 2018 despite coming second in votes. He prevailed because of Maine’s new ranked-choice system. The Republican incumbent at the time, Bruce Poliquin, won a plurality but not a majority of votes in the four-way race, and Golden got more second-choice selections from voters for the third-place and fourth-place finishers than Poliquin got.

Two years before, in 2016, Donald Trump won a single electoral vote in Maine by taking the state’s Second Congressional District. (Hillary Clinton won three electoral votes in Maine – one for winning the state’s First Congressional District in more liberal southern Maine, and two for winning the state overall, by a little less than 3 percentage points.)

The final tally in the presidential race in the Second Congressional District, according to the governor’s office, was 181,177 for Trump, 144,817 for Clinton. That’s out of 364,886 total votes in the Second Congressional District, according to the Maine Secretary of State.

That works out to 49.65 percent for Trump to 39.69 percent for Clinton, or a spread of a little less than 10 percentage points.

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