The Twin Cities buzzed with political fervor Tuesday night as two of the state’s six Republican candidates for U.S. Senate awaited election results in Auburn and Lewiston.

Maine Attorney General William Schneider gathered with supporters in Lewiston, while his opponent, former state Senate President Rick Bennett, awaited results with his own network of supporters across the river in Auburn.

“We feel good about the momentum we’ve brought into this race in the last week,” Bennett’s campaign manager Chris Jackson said as early results showed Bennett with a slight lead.

“Rick’s message that we not only need to get Washington back, but our party back is really resonating with people,” Jackson said.

Later in the evening, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers took the lead and held it throughout the night in the six-way race for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. 

Bennett spent the evening among supporters at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn. He was quick to point out that early results were just that — early results — he remained hopeful for the rest of the night.

“I got into this race because I was concerned about the direction of this country and the direction of this party. We need a new direction,” Bennett said. “I don’t know how. I don’t know where. But I’ll be continuing in this fight.”

Later in the evening, running 10 percentage points behind Summers, Bennett conceded the race.

Following his concession speech, he offered one piece of advice to the likely winner of Tuesday’s primary, and to the rest of the state’s Republican party.

“Run an unconventional campaign,” Bennett said. “Defeating (independent candidate) Angus King is going to mean stepping out of the party’s comfort zone and running a campaign that connects with the concerns of everyday people.”

Meanwhile, in Lewiston, Schneider and his supporters remained hopeful, despite being in last place for much of the evening.

“I felt compelled to get in the race to do something about what’s going on in Washington,” Schneider said. “I’ve always been somebody who led by bringing people together.”

Schneider and his supporters were hopeful that his career in public service — including the military, the state Legislature and the state attorney general’s office – would prove his strongest selling point with voters eager to see Congress come to consensus on critical issues.

Like Bennett, Schneider conceded late Tuesday night. He said he called Summers and congratulated him on his victory because he believes his former opponent will be a great candidate.

“Stick to a message that he and I agree on – reduce spending in Washington, develop a rational energy policy and keep our military strong,” Schneider said of what his advice to Summers would be.

Schneider said these were the three major issues that he and Summers agreed on throughout the campaign. He added that he did not know if he would run again, but would be hard at work in the attorney general’s office Wednesday.

“Integrity is important,” said Linda Langley of Durham, on her way into Bennett’s gathering Tuesday night. “I believe that what we’ve had with a lot of politicians is that they say something when they run for office, but then do something different when they get elected.”

Langley and her husband, Arthur, said they would support whichever candidate won the Republican nomination. Arthur Langley said he was encouraged by the excellent field of candidates for the primary race, and he knew several of them.

“Trying to make a decision on who to vote for in this election was the hardest I’ve ever had, because they were all excellent candidates,” he said.

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