AUGUSTA — With no more time to field replacements for Maine legislative candidates who’ve withdrawn, more than a dozen House and Senate races will go uncontested by Republicans and Democrats in a particularly competitive election year.

Democrats have no candidates in one Senate and nine House districts, while Republicans are leaving only one Senate race and three in the House uncontested. The deadline was 5 p.m. Monday for the political parties to file the names of legislative candidates who are replacing the 48 who withdrew since the June primaries.

But neither party made much Tuesday of the numbers and said their strong slates of candidates made them optimistic about their chances of winning majorities in November.

“Our team is motivated and confident that Maine voters will want to send more Republicans to Augusta to become part of the solution that is working,” said House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, adding that “small-business owners, farmers, fishermen, and teachers — people from every walk of life” are among the candidates.

With all 186 seats open in November, Republicans said recruitment for party candidates was at an all-time high.

Democrats said they weren’t worried at all that they’re left with more than twice as many uncontested races as the Republicans.

The District 11 Senate seat uncontested by Democrats is occupied by independent Sen. Richard Woodbury of Yarmouth, who caucuses with Democrats, said Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt. And more than half the House races uncontested by Democrats feature strong independents who are seen as likely to vote with her party, Reinholt said.

Party Executive Director Mary-Erin Casale said recruiting Democratic candidates for this election was “relatively easy” considering the large number of seats for a small state, even though many recruits expressed concerns about whether they could afford the time commitment to the Legislature while the economy remains slow.

“I’m pretty proud of the 142 candidates” who’ve stepped forward, Casale said.

Legislative campaigns are unusually intense this year, with Democrats hoping to wrest back from Republicans majorities they had enjoyed for decades. Republicans hold a 77-70 lead in the House, which also has two unenrolled members and two seats vacant. The Senate has 19 Republicans, 15 Democrats and 1 unenrolled member.

Republicans say they’re hoping to build on a record of easing state regulations, tax cuts, paring welfare programs and other changes they made during the current two-year session, the first in nearly a half century in which there was a GOP House, Senate and governor. Gov. Paul LePage isn’t up for re-election this year and has two years left in his term.

 

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