PORTLAND, Maine — Maine's blunt-spoken Republican governor won re-election in another bitterly contested, three-way race, turning back a challenge by a Democrat who promised to work to restore civility to politics.
Gov. Paul LePage, who declared he's not a "smooth-talking politician," urged voters not to focus on his words but his actions to improve the state's business climate by passing a massive tax cut and paying off a debt owed to the state's hospitals since he took office in 2010.
"Thank you for trusting in our mission," the 65-year-old former mayor of Waterville told about 200 supporters who gathered in his hometown of Lewiston early Wednesday, giving a thumbs-up and beaming as the crowd chanted "Four more years!"
Maine Republicans also clinched victories in the U.S. Senate and 2nd Congressional District races and appeared to wrest control of the state Senate away from Democrats.
Sen. Susan Collins, the last moderate Republican from New England in Congress, turned back a challenge by Democrat Shenna Bellows to win a fourth term.
Meanwhile, Bruce Poliquin became the first Republican to serve in the vast, rural 2nd Congressional District seat for two decades after beating Democrat Emily Cain.
It appeared that LePage would face a divided state Legislature.
Democrats said they will maintain control of the House of Representatives, but with about 10 fewer members. Republicans said it looked like they would hold 20 seats in the 35-member Senate, flipping the house from its slim Democratic majority.
In the governor's race, Democrat Mike Michaud, failed in his bid to become the first openly gay candidate to be elected governor. The 59-year-old former mill worker and six-term congressman had painted himself as a consensus builder, arguing that LePage's divisiveness was hindering the state's economy.
Before a subdued crowd early Wednesday, the Democrat called on Maine residents to put aside their differences and work together to move the state forward.
"We launched a campaign for governor driven by the belief that unity would win over division, that our positive vision for the state of Maine would defeat the anger and partisanship that we've seen over the last four years," Michaud said. "Though we may have come up a little short I know it's not because of lack of dedication, passion and commitment from all of you."
As of Wednesday morning, with 71 percent of precincts reporting, LePage had 48 percent of the vote while Michaud had 44 percent in unofficial returns. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler, a lawyer from Cape Elizabeth, was trailing with 8 percent in unofficial returns.
Cutler, whose presence in the race many voters had feared would ensure LePage another term, conceded early, thanking his supporters for following their conscience "and not yielding to polls, pundits, parties and PACs who tried to frighten" them into voting for someone else.
"Our supporters cast a vote that said that the only spoilers in politics today are the critics who divide us and pull us apart," Cutler said.
Democrats were victorious in the In the 1st Congressional District, where Chellie Pingree easily defeated Republican challenger Isaac Misiuk and independent Richard Murphy.
Mainers also rejected an attempt to ban the hunting of bear with bait, dogs and traps, methods that critics had declared to be cruel and unsportsmanlike.
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