Obviously I’ll be on the edge of my seat tonight (and probably into tomorrow as well) to hear the results in the race for governor and the Second Congressional District, which both promise to be very close. Control of the State Senate may also be challenged tonight, and there are a number of legislative races to watch as potential bellwethers.
That said, the closeness of races isn’t the only reason to watch the results. Here are three districts I’ll be keeping an eye on for other reasons:
Ryan Tipping-Spitz (D) – House District 123 (Orono)
My brother, a single-term incumbent (having succeeded Emily Cain in 2012 when she ran for the State Senate), doesn’t have much of a race on his hands this year. In fact, his Republican opponent hasn’t raised or spent any money or done any noticeable campaigning. Still, I’ll be interested to see the returns and especially how many students at the University of Maine make it out to the polls.
Ryan served on both the Taxation and Energy and Natural Resources Committees this session and was able to claim some accomplishments despite Maine’s divided government, including passing a bill to better protect Maine from the risks of oil spills from trains, months before the Lac-Megantic disaster brought public attention to the issue.
Gina Melaragno (D) – House District 62 (Auburn)
You’ve probably heard a lot of candidates talk about the 70,000 Mainers who were denied health care coverage with Governor LePage’s five vetoes of bipartisan bills to accept federal funding. Well, Melaragno is actually one of those people. She’s a skilled worker making low wages who would be eligible for coverage through MaineCare if it weren’t for LePage’s vetoes.
Melaragno was a courageous voice testifying before the Legislature this year and last about the difficulties of living without affordable health care. She urged them to overturn LePage’s vetoes, but they fell just a few votes short. So, she decided to do it herself. Melaragno has worked hard in a district that tilts Democratic and, after tonight, she may be able to add her own vote on that issue and others, taking a stand for Mainers in similar situations.
Jonathan Fulford (D) – Senate District 11 (Waldo County)
Senate Republican Leader Michael Thibodeau probably didn’t expect much of a challenge for his Republican-leaning seat in a mid-term election year, but Jonathan Fulford has run one of the best grassroots campaigns I’ve ever seen and may surprise some people tonight. He has personally knocked on almost 8,500 doors and has a volunteer team that rivals some congressional campaigns. They haven’t missed a trick or wasted a single resource – even his yard signs are recycled feed bags, screen-printed by volunteers.
Even more encouragingly, Fulford, like the other two candidates above, has ran a campaign based on fundamental, progressive values, clearly articulated. Seriously, read his website. His first bullet point is about closing tax loopholes for the rich and it just gets better from there. Candidates who don’t understand how voters really evaluate their choices often try to shy away from staking out clear positions, but not Fulford. He stands for something, and voters can tell.