State Senator Emily Cain of Orono won the Democratic Primary for the Second Congressional District walking away last night, garnering around 70% of the vote over her opponent, fellow Senator Troy Jackson of Allagash.
Throughout the race, Cain seemed to be playing in a different league from Jackson, leading by a wide margin in early polling and increasing that advantage during the course of the campaign. She vastly outraised and outspent her opponent and had far more help from outside groups, including Emily’s List and the League of Conservation Voters.
Back in January, I wrote that Jackson’s one hope in the contest was his populist tone and greater authenticity on issues of disparity. He played this to the hilt, both attacking Cain for her votes and strategic decisions as House Minority Leader (mostly fairly) and repeatedly and poignantly highlighting his own relevant life experiences and personal values. His convention address has to be considered one of the great speeches of Maine politics.
Cain was not without her own ammunition, however, and stuck to her message of progressive accomplishment, highlighting her leadership roles in the legislature and her far more solid voting record on touchstone Democratic issues of marriage equality, women’s rights, and the environment. On tone, she preached the importance of being open to bipartisanship and compromise, an approach that still has some currency in a Democratic electorate (unlike the tea-party-controlled GOP).
One of the big differences between the Democratic and Republican primaries was that Cain and Jackson mostly stuck to the issues. Their criticisms of each other were almost always legitimate and voters were given a good view of all sides of both candidates. Even the mailers from LCV that Jackson loudly bemoaned were factual and fair, basically a bullet point list of some of his votes on environmental issues.
In the end, Cain simply made no major mistakes and Jackson never had the resources to slow her sprint to the nomination.
Cain now faces a very different contest. Republican nominee Bruce Poliquin is no logger from Allagash, but a wealthy investor from Wall Street. She may now be the one at a financial disadvantage and she’s certainly now the candidate able to harness the powerful, contemporary theme of fighting against inequality.
This race won’t be a friendly one. As Rebekah Metzler notes, Poliquin has “a penchant for going dirty” that he has displayed in every single race he has run. This time he’ll be joined by national Republican groups in slinging all the mud they can against Cain.
If she wanted to save some money, Cain could respond by pretty much just running the same ads that Raye used in the Republican primary, assuming she can license that image of a 10-month-old baby.