A Democratic lawmaker who faced a primary challenge after voting against abortion rights backed by his party lost his race Tuesday in an example of how abortion continues to be a powerful electoral issue in the wake of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, a three-term incumbent, was defeated by newcomer Cassie Julia, who finished with 55%, or 490 votes, compared to 44%, or 390 votes, for White.

The results of the race were updated Wednesday after the Waterville city clerk said a data entry error in the initial results Tuesday showed Julia winning by a larger margin.

Julia, who serves on Waterville’s planning board, has said she was inspired to run when her teenage daughter pointed out White’s record on voting against abortion and reproductive rights measures. She thanked voters the day after her win.

“I appreciate that they so clearly supported my banner causes of reproductive rights and equality,” she said.

Julia will face Republican Tammy Brown in the general election race to represent House District 65, which includes part of Waterville, in the Maine House of Representatives.


The Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC spent more than $6,600 on the Democratic primary race, which is more than the amount spent by any other independent group statewide on the June primaries.

White issued a statement Wednesday saying he believes the outside spending had a big impact.

“While I am disappointed with the results, the money and involvement of Planned Parenthood appears to be a deciding factor in this race,” White said. “It was an honor to serve for the last six years, and I will continue to serve the people of Waterville in new ways. But first I will take some long overdue time to rest and relax. Good luck to Cassie in her new role.”


Planned Parenthood, which endorsed Julia, gave White an 11% approval rating in 2023 based on his votes on reproductive rights issues that year, including a vote against L.D. 1619, which expanded the ability to have an abortion later in pregnancy.

White was the only Democrat in the Legislature who voted against a proposal for an amendment to the Maine Constitution enshrining the right to abortion, and was one of just two Democrats who voted against a law to protect providers of abortion and gender-affirming care from hostile, out-of-state litigation.


While out knocking on doors, Julia said her platform in support of abortion and reproductive rights resonated with voters. As a clean elections candidate, she said she was not involved in Planned Parenthood’s spending, but was grateful for their support.

“They helped me get the message across to reinforce all the door knocking I did and to add credibility to my race as somebody who is worthy of beating a three-term incumbent,” she said.

Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, a three-term incumbent, left, was defeated by newcomer Cassie Julia in the House District 65 primary June 11.

The race came two years after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization upended the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, ending the federal protection for abortion access. Since then, states have taken steps to increase or draw back protections for abortions, and reproductive rights have risen in importance as an issue in elections.

The Supreme Court also could rule this month on two additional cases that could have significant impacts for reproductive health – one that could impose restrictions on the commonly used abortion pill mifepristone and another on whether a near-total abortion ban in Idaho conflicts with a federal law requiring emergency medical care for patients.

At the national level, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have moved abortion rights to the forefront of their reelection bid. Both the Democrat and Republican parties in Maine focused on the issue during their party conventions this year, with Republicans reaffirming their opposition to abortion and Democrats pledging to preserve abortion rights.

White said prior to Tuesday’s race that he didn’t think his opposition to state bills advancing abortion rights should preclude him from getting the Democratic nomination in his race.


Asked if he plans to stay enrolled in the party Wednesday, White said he does, though he believes it is becoming harder for differences of opinion to exist. “Moderate Democrats are not leaving the party, rather it is the party that is leaving the moderate Democrats,” he said.


At the polls in Waterville Tuesday, several Democratic voters said they had cast ballots for Julia and just one had supported White.

Karen Heck, 71, a former independent mayor of Waterville and a registered Democrat, was working at the polls and said she voted for Julia.

“She is LGBTQ+ friendly and pro-choice,” Heck said of Julia. “Bruce White voted against protecting doctors for performing medical services.”

Kyle Arthenayake and Katie Carlson, both 27 and registered Democrats, said Julia’s “stance on reproductive rights is important” and “it would be great to have a woman in the seat.”


Peter Grant, 67, also cited Julia’s stance on abortion rights as a deciding factor. “Julia believes in choices, and women should have choices,” Grant said.

Lisa Margulies, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC, issued a statement Tuesday in support of Julia and her primary win.

“Voters sent a clear message Tuesday: We expect our elected leaders to protect our reproductive rights and freedoms and if you do not, we will exercise our right to replace you with someone who will,” Margulies said.

Julia said she had always planned to run for White’s seat but it wasn’t until she took a closer look at his voting record, particularly on abortion and reproductive rights issues, that she felt a sense of urgency to run now.

She said the primary campaign was hard work, but she’s looking forward to getting her message out to voters again ahead of the general election in November.

Julia encouraged voters to get to know the candidates and what they stand for ahead of time, not just in her race, but in all elections. It wasn’t until she took a closer look at White’s voting record that she realized she disagreed with him, Julia said, even though both are Democrats.

“It’s important to get to know your candidates and know what their positions are on issues, and also whether or not they’re able to move past their personal beliefs and vote the way their constituents want,” she said.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Cayley Bowman contributed to this report.

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