AUGUSTA — The political parties are making an all-out push to find replacements for 48 candidates who have dropped out of House and Senate races to ensure that no legislative district is uncontested in the fall.
Both major parties said Tuesday they're committed to contesting all 186 legislative seats in the November elections. Republicans are determined to retain the House and Senate majorities they won for the first time in decades two years ago. Democrats have set their sights on getting a majority so they can reverse a GOP agenda that's taken hold during the past two years.
"We are going to be campaigning statewide and the Legislature is our top priority," said Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt.
GOP Executive Director Mike Quatrano said holding on to State House majorities "is absolutely our No. 1 priority."
"Ultimately our goal is to fill them all. We feel pretty confident, but we'll have to see how the (local party) caucuses play out," said Quatrano.
Now, it's up to the local party committees across the state to hold caucuses to nominate new candidates, a process that's well under way and involves coordination with the state parties.
As of Monday's 5 p.m. deadline for withdrawing, five state Senate candidates — three Republicans and two Democrats — had dropped out.
Of the House candidates, 21 Democrats, 20 Republicans and two Green Independents have decided not to run. The parties have until July 23 to nominate replacements for those who've withdrawn.
On Monday, Augusta Republicans nominated Matthew Pouliot as their candidate in District 57, where primary winner Andrew Worcester dropped out after winning the June 12 primary. District 57's Democratic primary winner, Rep. Maeghan Maloney, also withdrew to run for district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties. The local Democratic committee will meet Wednesday to choose a replacement candidate.
One of the most closely watched caucuses will be in Senate District 21, where three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Earle McCormick of West Gardiner withdrew. Local party activists next Monday must choose between Patrick Flood of Winthrop, a four-term House member who comes from the party's mainstream, and Ryan Wheaton of Pittston, a teacher who's backed by Ron Paul supporters and represents the more conservative wing of the party.
In Brunswick, Democrat Matthea Daughtry is a candidate for the District 66 seat now that incumbent Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx has withdrawn. Cornell du Houx dropped out under pressure from party leaders following legal issues they said had become a "distraction" in the campaign. Du Houx's former girlfriend, who is also a legislator, had filed a temporary protection order against him, but the case has now been settled.
The Brunswick Democrats will hold their caucus on Saturday.