AUGUSTA — It takes a long time to count tens of thousands of votes.
Election officials tasked with delivering an outcome on who won two Democratic primaries last week that employed, for the first time, ranked-choice voting spent Tuesday certifying numbers and gathering the last stray ballots.
Officials said they are likely to have results Wednesday in the primaries for governor and the 2nd Congressional District. There are no guarantees, though, since snags are always possible.
Lewiston state Rep. Jared Golden appeared to be just shy of the 50 percent needed to skip the ranked-choice aspect of the election. It is virtually certain he is the winner in the three-way race given the astronomical odds in his favor.
The governor’s race is less sure. Attorney General Janet Mills has a clear lead in first-round voting, but there are ways that Adam Cote or Betsy Sweet could emerge victorious.
Though officials had to scan some precinct results again Monday when they could not read earlier versions, including one district in Lewiston, they said the extra scanning did not prolong the process.
Mostly, they with impressive stamina were eyeballing numbers on computer screens and forms all day.
The Republicans already know who their candidates will be in the Nov. 6 general election. For governor, the GOP has picked Shawn Moody in a four-way primary, while U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin faced no internal opposition for the third term he seeks.
Golden, 35, had a big lead over Lucas St. Clair, a Hampden environmentalist, and Islesboro book dealer Craig Olson. Two other Democrats, Tim Rich of Bar Harbor and Jonathan Fulford of Monroe, dropped out in the months preceding the primary.
All have vowed to support the party’s candidate in the quest to unseat Poliquin.
Golden, not quite ready to claim victory, urged Democrats “to prepare for the long road ahead.”
“There will be no blue wave,” he said in a prepared statement. “Only the hard work and determination of Maine’s people — Democrats, independents and Republicans — who are fed up with Washington, and who are ready to work shoulder to shoulder to bring about the change we know is right.”
Democrats plan to hit Poliquin on his votes to kill the Affordable Care Act and support of a $1.5 trillion tax cut that Republicans said would spur economic growth and put more money into most everyone’s pockets.
Poliquin has held the seat since 2014, representing the largest district east of the Mississippi River and one of the most rural and impoverished in America. An open seat when Poliquin first ran, he faced Democrat Emily Cain in each of his previous congressional campaigns.
The independents in the 2nd District race are Portland lawyer Tiffany Bond and Southwest Harbor educator Will Hoar. Members of Congress serve two-year terms and are paid an annual salary of $174,000.
Officials with the Maine Department of the Secretary of State spent Tuesday making sure they had all of the ballots from across the state as they counted votes from last week’s primary election. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)