On Thursday, U.S. District judge Lance Walker denied a request by Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) to seek an injunction against the tabulation of votes cast under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system. The decision likely means that there will be no Republicans in the House of Representatives in the new Congress that will convene in January. This is the first time in more than a century that an incumbent has lost Maine’s largely rural 2nd District. It was the most expensive race in Maine’s history. Poliquin’s suit claimed that ranked-choice method is unconstitutional and violates other laws. The suit called on the judge to call the election for Poliquin.
Rep. Poliquin is still pursuing his challenge to the ranked-choice voting system in federal court. Democrat Jared Golden won more than 50 percent after election officials calculated the ranked-choice votes on Thursday afternoon. If Golden prevails, he would mean that the Democrats will enjoy a 230 to 199 majority over Republicans in House in the next Congress.
On the first count of the ballots cast on November 6, Poliquin narrowly led Golden. Since neither of the two men received 50 percent of the vote, the Pine Tree state’s new ranked-choice voting system was activated. Once the last-place finisher was eliminated, Golden bested Poliquin by 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, according to state election officials. Golden was declared the winner. Maine’s ranked-choice system has been in place since 2016.
Until the 2016 elections, Rep. Poliquin was joined in his caucus by fellow Republican and New Englander Rep. Frank C. Guinta of New Hampshire. Giunta lost his re-election bid to Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, with whom he traded the 1st District back and forth four times. Shea-Porter did not stand for re-election last week. However, the seat was won by Democrat Chris Pappas leaving New England without a GOP House representative. Since Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire also lost in 2016, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the only Republican left in the Senate within New England.
Outside groups and the candidates spent almost $20.6 million on the race by Election Day, making it the most expensive in Maine’s history. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than 58 percent came from Democrats.
Poliquin’s loss represents another blow for the GOP in Maine, who lost the governorship to Democrat Janet Mills last week. Democrats will be in the majority in both chambers of the state legislature.
Golden is a veteran Marine who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He campaigned against Poliquin by highlighting the latter’s vote to replace the Affordable Care Act with a Republican plan. Judge Walker was nominated to his seat by President Donald Trump in 2016. The ranked choice voting system was heavily endorsed by Democrats.