Ranked-choice tabulation to decide outcome of 2nd Congressional District race

Nov. 10—LEWISTON — While election officials continue to report the results from Tuesday's election, it seems likely that U.S. Rep. Jared Golden won a third term in Maine's 2nd Congressional District. But a ranked-choice tabulation will be required, according to a statement from the Office of Secretary of State.

As of early Wednesday evening, with nearly 94% of the vote counted, Golden held a 48% to 45% lead over his closest competitor, Republican Bruce Poliquin, a former congressman from Orrington. Enough municipalities have reported their results to the Secretary of State's office that it's clear the ranked choice tabulation will be required, according to the statement.

The tabulation will take place Tuesday in Augusta and is open to the public.

But unless the race tightens considerably, there is almost no way Poliquin could catch up when the 18,000-plus ballots cast for independent Tiffany Bond are redistributed to their second-choice candidate.

"The current state of the race is very encouraging," Golden said in a statement issued early Wednesday.

"I'm humbled by the support we are seeing from around the district," the Lewiston Democrat said. "In the event there is an instant runoff scenario, I expect it to strengthen my margin of victory."

"The people of Maine's 2nd District have turned out in strong numbers, and their collective voice should be heard. Every vote should be counted in accordance with Maine's election laws," Golden said.

Poliquin, who held the seat for four years until he lost to Golden in 2018, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.

Bond, a family law attorney, said Wednesday she is "not sure why you would need my opinion. I'm a nobody."

"I'm not depressed or anything," she added. "I've always been a nobody. I don't need to be a somebody. I'm perfectly content building a bunker in the woods. I don't need attention or validation the way most people running for office do."

Seeking to explain Golden's success, Amy Fried, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said Wednesday that the lawmaker "has built his own brand, and it's one rooted in Maine political dynamics. He can credibly claim to be independent, pragmatic and civil."

She said Golden has also delivered "very competent" constituent service, "something especially important for a district with many veterans and elderly people."

"Maine voters follow politics closely, so the attacks on him as too close" to Democratic President Joe Biden "likely didn't ring true to voters," Fried said.

"Poliquin thought using generic national attacks on Golden would be enough, along with visiting diners and businesses," Fried said. "But it wasn't, both given who Democrat Golden is — a Marine from a small business family who wins in a Trump district — and because Poliquin had his own baggage from his time in office."

As a result, she said, voters had "a clear choice between two very different individuals, from divergent backgrounds and with differentiated policy positions."

In a ranked-choice race, if no candidate wins a majority in the first round, election officials will drop the last place finisher from the contest and redistribute that person's ballots to any second-place selections made by the voters.

Since Golden, Poliquin and Bond were all on the ballot in 2018 — and Bond's votes then were redistributed — there is good reason to believe most of her backers picked Golden second this time around.

In 2018, Poliquin held a 2,171-vote lead over Golden in the first round, but once the race narrowed solely to Poliquin and Golden, the Democrat wound up winning by 3,500 votes.

Polling this fall indicated that most of Bond's voters are still likely to have chosen Golden as their second pick.

Fair Vote, an organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, created a site to measure the likely outcome of Golden's race with ranked-choice factored in.

It anticipates he will wind up winning in the final tally by a 54-46 margin, almost exactly the same as Golden posted in his 2020 race against Lisbon Republican Dale Crafts.