It is time for this week’s edition of Maine’s Political Pulse, where we look at what drives Maine politics.
Political correspondent Mal Leary spoke with Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz — Steve Mistler had the morning off.
Gratz: The big story this week, of course, was Democrat Jared Golden becoming the first person to win a congressional seat through ranked-choice voting. So let’s take a look at what that means for the state. Golden won in Maine’s 2nd District, but Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin still insists he won. What is that going to mean going forward?
Leary: A federal judge has got a lot of work in front of him. We know that the Poliquin lawsuit is going to go forward. They want a full hearing by the judge. They want the judge to consider their arguments that ranked-choice voting is unconstitutional under federal law. That process will take probably several days once the judge schedules a hearing and hears those arguments, and then of course there’s always the possibility of an appeal — in other words, the state, who says ranked-choice voting is constitutional, and Poliquin and his additional plaintiffs say it isn’t, then it could go up to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
The bottom line here is that this is not going to affect Jared Golden being seated in Congress. It could affect his election further on down the road if indeed there was a federal court ruling that said, “No, you can’t use ranked-choice voting to elect members of Congress.”
Golden was one of a number of Democrats elected in Maine during this election cycle. What is that going to mean for the Democratic agenda going forward?
Well it’s interesting because it’s one more vote, and they’ve actually been picking votes up all this week from recounts, mostly in California. So the size of the Democratic majority in the House continues to grow a little bit.
What that really means is going to be difficult to say, because the Republicans still control the Senate, and of course there’s President Donald Trump. So the balancing act is still going to have to occur where Democrats and Republicans are going to have to work together in order to accomplish legislation.
Until we get the members seated, committees assigned and people starting to do work, we don’t know if there’s going to be the across-the-aisle work that needs to be done in both the House and Senate in order to come up with legislation that actually can pass and go to the president.
What does Golden’s win say about 2nd District voters, who most recently supported a Republican in this seat?
I’m not sure how much it says about that. It was an extremely close vote. If you look at the plurality, it was a margin of like 1,500 votes. Even under Golden’s ranked-voting win it’s only 3,000. That’s not a big win for the Democrats.
I think what it says was the Democrats had the far better get-out-the-vote effort, where they identified their voters and got them to the polls, both through absentee or early voting as well as getting to the polls on Election Day. I think that’s what it tells us: The Democrats mounted a better campaign than they’ve ever mounted in the past.
People are quick to forget that four years ago the seat was held by Mike Michaud, who held it for several years, and he is a Democrat, so the district is more purple than it is one shade or the other. I think that you’re going to see this to continue — there’s always a possibility of a good Republican candidate being able to come back and knock off Jared Golden in two years.