Down East 2013 ©
Maine may be shaded a solid blue on CNN's presidential election map, but the real story is much more complicated, especially at the state and local level.
The Maine state Senate is perhaps the best example of partisan competition in Maine, and this year's election looks to be another close one. Democrats currently have a slim one-vote majority in the chamber and there are several races that promise to be nailbiters. It's much more exciting than the state House, which is now solidly Democratic and will likely remain that way through the next election.
I'll be getting into specific races soon, but I wanted to use this post to give an overview of the state Senate election as a whole. One of the best ways to do that is with visual aids, so here are some maps, created with info from Maine GIS and the Elections Bureau showing the results of the last two Senate elections (the districts were redrawn in 2003).
As you can see, Republicans (red) do well in rural areas, while Democrats enjoy majorities in urban areas and a few other spots, such as the solidly Democratic St. John valley.
Past partisan performance isn't necessarily the best barometer of competitiveness, and it's important to take into account things like term limits, local issues, and most importantly the candidates themselves. Mainers often vote for the person rather than the party, and candidate name recognition and willingness to work hard to win the seat make a huge difference.
Over the last few weeks, I've been discussing the 2008 races with politicians, journalists, and interest group leaders, and they all seem to agree on the importance of a small number of competitive districts that may tip the balance of power this year. Most of these are made up of small town and suburban areas of southern and central Maine.
I'll be examining at least seven of these in more detail over the next few weeks, including Districts 1, 11, 15, 20, 21, 22 and 32. Feel free to use the comments below to suggest others.