It is said that “all politics is local”.
Well, Pine Tree Politics will be taking that old saying to heart in the next several months.
We will be exploring all 151 seats in the Maine House of Representatives, conducting an in depth political analysis of the district – including past voting tendencies, voter registration, and ideological lean of the seat. We will discuss look at how to win in the district, including what kind of politicians thrive in these locations. When appropriate, we will also look at the unique things that define a district – such as a major metropolitan area, a local industry, a dominant ethic/language group, etc.
And best of all, we will do this daily (or every other day – depends how sprawling the district is).
We hope this will give you (and us) a greater understanding of the political landscape of not only these areas, but the entire state. Knowing the makeup and past tendencies of a small region like an 8,000 person voting district will invariably help us understand how and why certain things happen in Maine politically. Our data will be compiled from voting records from the constituent towns of each district, so we can know how the people of that district voted every year.
The one unfortunate caveat to this exercise is that the data does not necessarily tell us the whole story. Let me explain: the segmented data provided by the State of Maine online stops at 1990. Attempting to draw real conclusions about the political makeup of an area with only 20 years to look at is problematic, mostly because many politicians that thrive are around for a long time. For example, only two Congressmen have represented the second Congressional district since 1994 – so is the dominance of Democrats in Congressional elections over the past 14 years a factor of support for the Democratic Party, or is it a factor of two well matched Democrats to an area?
In other words, is the success of one party or another in an area a matter of a good run of a couple candidates in a row which give the appearance of a “stronghold”? To truly answer that, we would need to see data for a longer period of time, to give us a longer term impression of areas, and tell us if we are in a period of personal dominance of a couple politicians, or if we are in a period of political alignment.
It is more than frequent for certain areas to latch on to certain personalities or personal stories and support them and their allies for a long time, but which may actually mask the true political nature of a district. To really make a judgment call I would like to see data going back to probably 1950. Maine has certainly changed over the years, but not enough to make such old data invalid.
That said, looking at the past 20 years of elections can at the very least tell us recent trends. The additional data would be more vital for political strategy planning – coming up with the right candidates to flip districts from what they currently appear to be.
We begin our journey with Maine House District 1.
District 1 Summary
Maine’s first House District is to the far north-west of the state, and is made up of a huge portion of real estate. Containing most of the western half of Aroostook county, the land covered in this district is larger than a great number of U.S. Congressional districts (though obviously not as a factor of population).
With sparsely populated land, much of which bordering Canada (and most of which is virtually uninhabited), the people of this district are heavily French-Canadian in heritage, a large percentage of residents are bilingual (English and French), and in some communities (specifically the border communities), it is difficult to find employment for those who do not speak both English and French.
The main political center of District 1 is Fort Kent with about half the voting residents. Fort Kent lies on the border with Canada, and is economically and culturally linked to it – specifically the towns of Clair and Saint-François-de-Madawaska, both which lie right over the border. Many residents actually have dual citizenship.
It is home to a major stronghold of the Democratic Party. This is the region from which former Speaker John Martin – chef antagonist to former Republican Governor Jock McKernan – hails, and has consistently voted for Democrats in nearly every election at every level.
The only exceptions to this have been the 1996 election of Duane Belanger to the House, the 2002 election of Troy Jackson (then an Independent, now a Democrat), and consistent support for both of Maine’s U.S. Senators, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins.
But why such a Democratic stronghold?
This district is overwhelmingly Democratic in term of registration, holding a +32% registration advantage over Republicans. The area has been dominated by John Martin since the 1970s, and in all liklihood the Democratic Party is synonymous with him in that area. As he has built his machine over nearly four decades, the opposition party has withered and his party has dominated.
Yet owing to its highly French-Canadian/Catholic population, the residents of District 1 also happen to be culturally conservative. In 1999 they overwhelmingly voted for a ban on partial birth abortion, they also rejected euthanasia, and have three times overwhelmingly rejected not only gay marriage, but also simple civil protection for homosexuals.
The district is very indicative of Catholicism – culturally conservative, but economically quite liberal. They have no taste for TABOR, and seem more than comfortable with government redistribution of wealth and resources. This is the coalition Martin and his allies have put together in not only this district, but the entire 2nd Congressional district as a whole. A 2nd district Democrat is not a traditional liberal – they focus on “economic justice” and try to at least appear to be on the side of the more culturally conservative proclivities of the area.
Were this district to exist in a vacuum outside of machine politics and personal dominance by John Martin, it would seem to be an opportunity district for the GOP. Wedging those types of social issues has helped the Republican Party overturn what once was the solid-south for the Democrats into blood red for the GOP.
Were the GOP able to find a well respected, working class person with a French last name who was Catholic and made cultural conservatism a hallmark of his/her candidacy – there is potentially that such a person could win here. But as the results nationally have shown (supporting Democratic Presidential nominees and Snowe and Collins) – economic liberalism outweighs social conservatism in this district – so any such Republican would have to be decidedly moderate to liberal on economic policy.
But for now, the entrenched interests of Martin and the base of allies he has built up shows no signs of being broken, and we can safely label this district Democratic.
A Quick Look
- Pine Tree Partisan Ranking: Heavily Democratic
- Current Representative: John Martin (D)
- Current State Senator: Troy Jackson (D)
- Political Party Registration: Democratic - 48.46% Unenrolled 33.57% Republican 16.50% Green 1.46%
- Political Borders: Allagash, Ashland, Eagle Lake, Fort Kent, St. Francis, Wallagrass and Plantations of Garfield, Nashville, St. John and Winterville, plus the unorganized territory of Northwest Aroostook
Past votes for State Representative
- 2008 Representative: John Martin – 100%
- 2006 Representative: Troy Jackson – 100%
- 2004 Representative: Troy Jackson – 73.64% Paul Berube – 26.35%
Note: Prior to 2004, what is now District 1 was mostly District 151, but also included parts of District 146 and 150
- 2002 Representative: Troy Jackson/Rudolph St. Peter - 57.31% Marc Michaud/Rosaire Paradis/Theodore St. Peter – 37.06% John Churchill – 5.62%
- 2000 Representative: Marc Michaud/Mabel Desmond – 58.15% Troy Jackson – 41.85%
- 1998 Representative: John Martin/Mabel Desmond - 68.81% Duane Belanger – 31.19%
- 1996 Representative: Duane Belanger – 52.50% John Martin/Mabel Desmond – 47.50%
- 1994 Representative: John Martin/Mabel Desmond - 77.29% Shirlee Connors-Carlson – 22.71%
Past votes for State Senate
- 2008 Senate: Troy Jackson/Jaqueline Lundeen – 72.77% Daniel Deveau/Roger Sherman – 27.23%
- 2006 Senate: John Martin/J. Chipman Beckwith – 71.79% Cathy Martin/Roger Sherman – 28.21%
- 2004 Senate: John Martin/Edward Buckley – 70.31% Cathy Martin/Dean Clukey – 29.69%
- 2002 Senate: John Martin – 76.17% Shirlee Connors-Carlson - 23.83%
- 2000 Senate: John Martin – 70.37% Duane Belanger – 29.63%
- 1998 Senate: Judy Paradis – 100%
- 1996 Senate: Judy Paradis – 81.96% Shirlee Connors-Carlson - 18.04%
- 1994 Senate: Judy Paradis – 75.76% Malachi Anderson – 24.24%
Past votes for Governor
- 2006 Governor: John Baldacci - 59.15% Chandler Woodcock – 20.23% Barbara Merrill – 10.21% Pat LaMarche – 9.79%
- 2002 Governor: John Baldacci – 68.31% Peter Cianchette – 22.65% Jonathan Carter – 5.71%
- 1998 Governor: Angus King – 60.61% Tom Connolly – 16.76% Jim Longley, Jr – 12.72% Pat LaMarche – 7.02%
- 1994 Governor: Joe Brennan – 52.51% Angus King – 22.58% Susan Collins – 22.26% Jonathan Carter – 2.65%
Past votes for President
- 2008 Presidential: Barack Obama – 66.07% John McCain – 31.93%
- 2004 Presidential: John Kerry - 66.60% George W. Bush – 31.61%
- 2000 Presidential: Al Gore – 60.46% George W. Bush – 35.09% Ralph Nader – 3.70%
- 1996 Presidential: Bill Clinton – 60.82% Ross Perot – 18.78% Bob Dole – 18.46%
Past votes for US Senate
- 2008 US Senate: Susan Collins – 66.41% Tom Allen – 33.59%
- 2006 US Senate: Olympia Snowe – 67.69% Jean Hay Bright – 28.78%
- 2002 US Senate: Susan Collins – 61.89% Chellie Pingree – 38.11%
- 2000 US Senate: Olympia Snowe – 65.30% Mark Lawrence – 34.70%
- 1996 US Senate: Joseph Brennan – 51.25% Susan Collins – 43.61%
- 1994 US Senate: Olympia Snowe – 56.60% Tom Andrews – 38.73% Plato Truman – 4.67%
Past votes for US House
- 2008 US House (District 2): Mike Michaud – 81.58% John Frary – 18.42%
- 2006 US House (District 2): Mike Michaud – 84.59% Laurence D’Amboise – 15.41%
- 2004 US House (District 2): Mike Michaud – 58.44% Brian Hamel – 38.53%
- 2002 US House (District 2): Mike Michaud – 68.76% Kevin Raye – 31.24%
- 2000 US House (District 2): John Baldacci – 82.94% Richard Campbell – 17.06%
- 1998 US House (District 2): John Baldacci – 87.66% Jonathan Cooper Reisman – 12.34%
- 1996 US House (District 2): John Baldacci – 73.68% Paul Young – 22.03%
- 1994 US House (District 2): John Baldacci – 71.71% Rick Bennett – 18.82%
Key Referendum Votes
- 2009 Gay Marriage: Yes - 71.26% No - 28.74%
- 2009 Taxpayers Bill of Rights: No - 64.28% Yes - 35.72%
- 2009 Medical Marijuana: No - 52.34% Yes - 47.66%
- 2006 Taxpayers Bill of Rights: No - 64.19% Yes - 35.81%
- 2005 Gay Rights: Yes - 52.03% No - 47.97.%
- 2000 Gay Rights: No - 60.04% Yes - 39.96%
- 2000 Death with Dignity: No - 75.80% Yes - 24.20%
- 1999 Partial Birth Abortion: Yes - 78.08% No - 21.92%
- 1999 Medical Marijuana: Yes - 52.81% No - 47.19%