AUGUSTA, Maine – A Republican businessman hoping to succeed Maine’s firebrand GOP governor was the winner in the nation’s first ranked-choice voting primary, but it could take a week for election officials to declare a winner of the Democratic primary.
No one came close to getting an outright majority to claim victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday. That means ballots will be shipped to Augusta, Maine, for more tabulations next week under the state’s ranked-choice voting system.
Residents voted Tuesday to retain the voting system, nullifying a legislative delay and allowing it to be used in November’s federal elections in Maine.
Republican Shawn Moody won his primary for the chance to run for the seat being vacated by term-limited GOP Gov. Paul LePage.
Moody, who founded a successful chain of auto collision centers, cast himself as a political outsider in the style of LePage and Republican President Donald Trump.
“I think Mainers have spoken,” Moody told the Associated Press. “They want a businessperson, an outsider. And they’re not ready to turn Augusta back over to the politicians.”
Ranked-choice voting works like this: A candidate who collects a majority of the vote wins. If there’s no majority, then the last-place candidate will be eliminated and votes reallocated. The process is repeated until there’s a majority winner.
The voting system is used in 11 local jurisdictions and was used for the first time in a U.S. statewide primary on Tuesday.
But it has plenty of critics, including the governor. LePage said Tuesday that he probably won’t certify election results. His announcement was largely symbolic. Democratic Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said such an act wouldn’t change anything.
In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Marine Corp veteran and state lawmaker Jared Golden had the most first-place votes in Maine’s Democratic congressional primary. But it’ll take additional tabulations in that race to determine if he’s earned the right to challenge Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in November.
That puts Golden and Lucas St. Clair, who led a push for a national monument, in the same boat in the 2nd District as Attorney General Janet Mills and attorney Adam Cote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Couriers will begin delivering ballots to a secure site in Augusta on Thursday, with vote counting beginning Friday and continuing next week.
LePage declined to endorse a candidate, but his family has ties to Moody. LePage’s daughter, Lauren, worked for Moody’s campaign, and his wife, Ann, endorsed Moody in campaign ads.
The 58-year-old Moody has served as a trustee at the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System. He unsuccessfully ran for governor against LePage as an independent in 2010, and enrolled in the Republican Party last year.
“I don’t have maybe baggage, so to speak politically,” Moody said. “I think Maine people want a fresh start.”
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