If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to go vote.

In addition to the statewide primaries being held today, there are also town and county issues on the ballot in towns throughout Maine and primaries for a smattering of local and regional offices across the state.

Unless there’s an upset in one of the Republican congressional primaries (establishment candidates Kevin Raye in the 2nd District and Jon Courtney in the 1st are facing challenges from Blaine Richardson and Patrick Calder, respectively, for the right to take on Maine’s incumbent representatives in November), the main focus tonight will be on the Democratic and Republican U.S. Senate contests.

No one knows who will win the primaries. No recent public polling has been done, and the small expected turnout means that the race could hinge on any number of factors.

The Republican side has seen more candidates, more money raised, and more TV ads than the Democratic field. This is likely in part because a larger proportion of Democrats than Republicans are leaning toward supporting former Gov. Angus King in the general election rather than whichever candidate wins the primary. (Polls, however, also show plenty of Republicans support King.)

The winner among the Republicans likely will be the candidate who can gain the most support from the coalition of Republican voters who first gave Paul LePage his primary win in 2010 and then helped elect him governor in a five-way race. This means that all the candidates have focused their messages toward tea party activists and hard-line conservatives.

Each of the candidates has his or her own advantages in the race:

* Secretary of State Charlie Summers started with the highest name recognition, having taken some recent runs for Congress.

* State Treasurer Bruce Poliqun is a millionaire and can spend a great deal of his own money on ads tying him to LePage.

* Attorney General William Schneider seems to have institutional support, especially from Washington D.C.

* Former state Sen. Rick Bennett has deep-seated corporate and political connections and a proven ability to raise money.

* State Sen. Debra Plowman has activist credibility and connections with the tea party base.

* Scott D’Amboise, having started his campaign first, has had the most time to build support.

There are rumors of internal polls showing one or another of these candidates in the lead, but these shouldn’t be given any credence. Even the best, independent poll would have a hard time capturing the state of this kind of race.

On the Democratic side, four candidates are in the race, and three of them have a path to the nomination. Benjamin Pollard is the outsider.

State Sen. Cynthia Dill likely started the race with the most name recognition because of her recent special election win and her championing of various public causes. She also has the advantage of being from southern Maine, where more Democrats may be voting, and of being the only woman in the race.

Former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has shown a great deal of institutional support, and his backers have argued that he has the best background and temperament for the position. He is also the only candidate from central or northern Maine.

Jon Hinck has perhaps the best progressive credentials of the three major candidates. He, along with Dunlap, also has done a comparatively better job of fundraising than has Dill. Hinck doesn’t seem to be garnering as much support as the other two candidates; but without polling, it’s hard to tell where any of them stand.

Dunlap recently narrowly won the Maine People’s Alliance straw poll (which I helped to administer) over Dill (King came in third, followed by Hinck and Bennett) which shows a degree of activist support for both their campaigns.

Hinck might have done better in the unscientific, text-message straw poll if his campaign hadn’t accidentally sent the wrong phone number out to his email list. I feel bad for whoever owns that number and potentially had dozens of people texting them nothing but the word “Hinck” for the past week.

I don’t have space here to address all the other primaries occurring today, including interesting and close contests in Biddeford, Hampden and a multitude of other communities up and down the state; but you can rest assured that there will be plenty of drama on the local level.

On a personal note, one race I’ll be following closely is the Democratic primary for state House in Orono, where I grew up and where my brother Ryan is a candidate. Good luck, buddy.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie. He writes the Tipping Point blog on Maine politics at DownEast.com, his own blog at MainePolitics.net and works for the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine People’s Resource Center. He’s @miketipping on Twitter. Email to [email protected]


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