Democrat Chellie Pingree has declared victory in Maine's First District congressional race. Pingree fended off challengers from both the political right and center to earn a sixth term in what has become a strong Democratic district.
As of late Tuesday night, Pingree had garnered about 58 percent of the vote – 8 points above the threshold needed to avoid a runoff under ranked-choice voting. In a speech to her supporters in Portland, Pingree said that she'll continue to fight for important issues such as maintaining the Affordable Care Act and protecting social security.
"But I already know these next two years, we're going to have a lot of work ahead of us in the House of Representatives," Pingree said.
This election cycle, Pingree faced two opponents. Marty Grohman of Biddeford entered the race as a pro-business independent candidate after years as a Democratic lawmaker in Maine's House of Representatives. Grohman hoped that Maine's new ranked-choice voting law WOULD IMProve his chances in the race. Yet he conceded early on Tuesday night with less than 15 percent of the vote. Grohman told supporters that running as an independent was a challenge, but that he was proud to have preached cooperation in an era of bitter partisan politics.
"This concept that the only way for us to get a win is if the other side gets a loss," Grohman said. "I just don't believe that. And I never have."
Meanwhile, Republican Mark Holbrook of Brunswick ran a Trump-style campaign focused on, “draining the swamp,” immigration and national security. It was Holbrook's second run for the seat after losing by 16 points to Pingree two years ago.
Holbrook was behind by about 25 points as of late Tuesday night. But the candidate told reporters that he felt he could still win with ranked-choice voting, and he wouldn't concede the race until more votes were tallied.
"Oh, god no," Holbrook said. "Once you get into a fight, you stay until the end. We're still in this. Absolutely."
Overall, the campaign was relatively low-key with far less money spent on advertising than in Maine's second district. During the race, Pingree largely focused on policies such as healthcare and prescription drug prices.
In a speech to supporters declaring victory Tuesday night, Pingree continued with those themes, but she got the biggest cheers from the crowd by calling for government action on climate change.
"For fishing industries, for our coastal communities," Pingree said. "It could threaten our way of life. And time is running out."
Pingree will also have the advantage of a Democratic House majority for the first time in eight years, which she hopes can serve as a check on President Trump's agenda.
"I am going to fight against the hateful rhetoric that has become all too common in this country," Pingree said.