The Maine governor’s race and a sense of civic duty brought thousands of enthusiastic voters out to the polls in central Maine on Tuesday, with election clerks reporting steady turnout throughout in the day.

“I think (this election) is one of the most important in history,” said Wade Bartel, 58, a Republican from Oakland, as he was leaving the polls at Williams Elementary School. “We have to determine if we like the direction we’re going or if we want to go somewhere else.”

In Manchester, Debora Southiere, town clerk and election warden, said the voting had been steady all morning.

“I actually had people at 7 a.m.,” she said.

Unlike Augusta, where polls opened at 7 a.m., Manchester and numerous other municipalities didn’t open for voting until 8 a.m. “There are a lot of new voters,” Southiere said, “a lot of people that haven’t been registered and are registering and voting in this election.”

About 625 people had voted as of 11:30 a.m. in Oakland, according to Town Clerk Janice Porter, who said turnout had been strong all day. Another 1,200 Oakland residents voted by absentee ballot. The town has a population of about 6,200.

“Thank goodness for that, because we really wouldn’t be able to accommodate all of them,” Porter said. “This is kind of an off-year. It isn’t a presidential (election year), so I can’t believe how much interest there has been.”

Josephine Smith, also an Oakland Republican, said she made a special effort to vote Tuesday because of the governor’s race and a hotly contested 2nd Congressional District race. She voted for Republican Shawn Moody for governor and incumbent U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, for Congress.

“The younger guy may do a great job, but I guess maybe just because we’re Republicans, we kind of followed our line,” Smith, 90, said, referring to Poliquin’s Democratic opponent, Jared Golden, of Lewiston, in the 2nd District race.

Maine Political Report



Poliquin also faced independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar in the 2nd District while Moody is facing Democrat Janet Mills and independent Terry Hayes in the race for governor.

“So far as governor, there again, Republican,” Smith said. “I just like Moody. I’m not sure he can do a good job, but I’m sure he can do as good as (Gov. Paul LePage) did.”

The governor’s race and the U.S. Senate race also were listed by many residents as being among the top items that brought them to the polls. In the Senate race, U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is being challenged by state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and Democrat Zak Ringelstein.

Waterville residents also were voting in four City Council races and considering a proposed ordinance that would ban distribution of plastic shopping bags at large retail stores.

About 1,700 people had voted in Waterville by early afternoon, not including some 2,000 absentee ballots that were cast, said Roger Collins, an election clerk in Waterville. The city has a population of around 16,600.

Lisa Mogilka, 25, an independent from Waterville, said she votes every year but was particularly motivated this year by the opportunity to vote for Hayes in the governor’s race.

“A long time ago I saw an ad for her on Facebook,” said Mogilka, who works at T-Mobile. “I did a survey and it brought me to a website of her beliefs. I really connected with that. I wanted to make sure I was able to vote for her and try and get the state to go in a different direction.”

In Augusta, Gary Pouliot — whose son Rep. Matt Pouliot, a Republican, was seeking the Augusta-area Maine Senate seat being vacated by Roger Katz — also greeted voters, as did the father of Kellie Julia, Pouliot’s Democratic opponent.

Gary Pouliot said his parents were at the Ward 3 polling station, at the Augusta Civic Center, greeting voters there, while Matt’s wife, Heather, was at the Ward 1 voting site. the Buker Community Center, and Matt’s mother at the Ward 4 station, Cony High School. The candidate himself had just been in Oakland, according to a text Gary Pouliot received.

Also at the Civic Center earlier in the day were Kellie Julia, the Democrat seeking Katz’s Senate seat; as well as Justin Fecteau, a Republican hoping to succeed Pouliot in the House.

In Augusta, Randolph and elsewhere, voters found new, carousel-style, curtainless voting booths. Each carousel had four places for voters to stand, and several places had the table lowered to accommodate voters who needed to sit.

In the anteroom off the City Council chamber, Andi Parkinson, of Monmouth, staffed a petitioners’ table, seeking signatures for the Maine People’s Alliance petition for a ballot initiative requiring private and public employers to provide paid sick days for eligible employees. She also was pointing people to another petition, “Maine Death with Dignity,” which aims to get an assisted-dying statute on the November 2019 ballot. A third item asked people to sign cards saying “I support universal healthcare.” Those cards said they are “Paid for by Maine ALLCare.”

Mary Vogel, assistant clerk in Augusta, said a number of residents had come to City Center to register even though it was possible to do it at the individual polling places. The assistant clerks had registered a total of about 50 new voters by noon.

In Winslow, which has a population of around 7,600, about 730 ballots were cast by lunchtime and another 1,100 people voted absentee. Election Warden Karen Carpenter said that’s on par for any big election. “It’s been a really good turnout,” she said.

GUBERNATORIAL IMPACT

Richard Hamlin, 66, a Democrat, said he normally votes, but was especially motivated “to get rid of LePage.”

The retired Winslow resident chose to vote for Mills for governor.

“I think it’s time we get a lady in office for governor for a change,” Hamlin said. “I think she has a lot of good ideas on education and also on welfare for older people, and health care.”

Back at the Waterville polling place at Thomas College, a special section also was set up for Colby College students to register to vote. About 150 student absentee ballots are being challenged on grounds the voter registration was not done correctly because they were completed with mailing addresses at the Colby student center rather than residential addresses.

Abbie Koschik, 18, a Colby student from New Jersey and an independent, said she was unaware of the problem with some Colby registrations. She said she came to vote to be involved in the community and because “there has been a lot of publicity around this election in terms of encouraging people to go vote.”

Koschik cast her ballot for Janet Mills for governor and Zak Ringelstein for Senate and voted to support the ban on plastic bags.

“I feel like since Maine is a little bit of a swing state, my vote makes more of a difference here than in New Jersey, which is solidly blue,” she said. “I just thought my vote would be worth more (in Maine).”

Steven Handley, 20, a shift manager at Domino’s, said he came to vote because “it’s about time we need a new governor.”

Handley, a Republican who said he is not a fan of LePage, voted for Moody. “I’m hopeful he’s going to turn Maine around and make it better,” he said.

VERY BUSY EARLY

On Tuesday morning on Cony Street outside Augusta City Center, polling site of voters registered in Ward 2 , Marty Grohman’s wife, Amy, and two children held signs supporting Grohman’s bid as an independent for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Democrat Chellie Pingree.

Just outside the entrance to the municipal building, Grohman greeted people who arrived to vote. Grohman said he had started the day with his family on the campaign bus in Biddeford, stopped in Scarborough and then planned to visit Deering High School in Portland after a swing north to Waterville.

Shortly afterward, state Sen. Eric Brakey from Androscoggin County — the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by independent Angus King — arrived to introduce himself to voters on his campaign swing around the state. He had begun his day in Bangor, Brewer and Hampden, traveled to Waterville and Augusta, and planned to conclude in Auburn. He and the Androscoggin Republican Party planned a celebration at the Hilton-Garden Inn Auburn Riverwalk.

He said he found the voter turnout in the Bangor area to be high.

“It was very busy early,” he said.

Even a comment from a friendly voter failed to dampen that. Brakey introduced himself, and the man said, “I know who you are, but I’m not voting for you.”

He wished Brakey “good luck” just the same.

City residents Scott Adley and Stacy Knapp met Brakey after they voted and then posed for a selfie photo in front of a city of Augusta wall hanging, a regular voting ritual, they said, both sporting the round “I voted” sticker.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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