The victory of Shawn Moody in Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial primary should not have been a terrible shock to many, and it doesn’t seem to have been. Instead, what seemed to surprise observers was not that he won, but that he won by such a wide margin — and that we knew the result on Tuesday.

He didn’t just cruise to victory, he trounced his opponents: he bested his closest competitor by over 30 percentage points and more than twice as many votes. So, while 56 percent might not seem that impressive, in a four-way race it’s an enormous victory.

He was able to win in such a convincing fashion not just because he and his team — which included many of LePage’s senior staff and consultants — ran the best campaign, but because he had the most breadth and depth of support of any Republican candidate. It was clear from the moment that he announced that he had a wide breadth of support within the GOP: he not only had the backing of most of Team LePage, but many former state party chairs, current legislators, and prominent donors and activists. That’s why he was treated immediately as the front-runner by most, including not only the media but his opponents.

However, what wasn’t clear was whether that wide breadth of support amongst the party establishment would end up translating into a depth of support from actual voters. Some candidates begin with the backing of a lot of big names, then end up tanking once they face voters — see, for example, Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. Moody successfully avoided that pitfall by connecting with ordinary voters across the state, not just the elite. He was able to offer a little bit to all different kinds of Maine Republicans.

For those who wanted an outsider, he could claim that mantle as the only candidate who wasn’t serving in elected office or a top job in the administration. For moderate Republicans, his past as an independent may have been appealing rather than being a detriment. For LePage loyalists, the presence of so many of the governor’s staff — and the endorsement of first lady Ann LePage — was no doubt reassuring.

Certainly, Shawn Moody and his supporters were the big winners on Tuesday, but all Maine Republicans should be relieved that the party had a clear-cut winner on election day who didn’t need a second round of voting to secure the nomination. Now Moody has more time to prepare for the fall campaign than his Democratic opponent, whomever that may be — and even if that’s only a few days, it’s definitely an advantage.

We’re lucky to have a nominee who can not only bring the party together, but who can appeal to a wide swath of the electorate this November.

The supporters of ranked-choice voting were the other clear winners on Tuesday night.

Not only did their people’s veto of the Legislature’s delay attempt succeed, it won by an even larger margin than the initial referendum. That’s impressive, as is the turnout — according to current numbers, around 50,000 more voters showed up to weigh in on Question 1 than on the gubernatorial primaries. It’s clear that unenrolled voters were motivated to show up to vote for ranked-choice voting.

The success of the people’s veto is also a win for independent 1st District congressional candidate Martin Grohman, as ranked-choice voting will now be used in his race.

Ranked-choice voting also benefited from not being a factor in the GOP primary. Had that race gone to a second round, the system could have faced additional legal challenges, as none of the Republicans gubernatorial candidates supported ranked-choice voting. Whether the legal challenges succeeded or not, it could have cost both sides quite a lot of money and time to battle out in court. For now at least, the legal fight appears to be over, since the Democratic candidates probably won’t challenge the results.

For Democrats, primary night was a bit of a mixed bag.

They certainly can be pleased by the turnout: more people voted in their primary than in the GOP primary, and that can be a positive sign for the fall. However, they also had a much more crowded field, so their primary will end up being decided by ranked-choice voting.

The likeliest outcome is that current leader Janet Mills will be the nominee, but an upset is still possible. It will be fascinating to see how the additional rounds shake out over the coming days.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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