AUGUSTA — After a ballot recount that lasted almost five hours Thursday, Wayne Werts of Auburn was declared the winner in the Maine House District 70 race.

Werts, the Democratic challenger to three-term Republican state Rep. Bruce Bickford of Auburn, prevailed by four votes. Earlier unofficial results had Werts winning the race by two votes, 2,268 votes to Bickford’s 2,266.

Both men said their longstanding friendship would continue. Werts, the former fire chief in Auburn, and Bickford, a former city councilor, said they have known each other for more than 20 years. They also said several times Thursday, as officials and party volunteers worked to recount ballots, that while they belong to different parties, they were not political polar opposites. Both touted their moderate views.

“He’s a good guy; he’ll do really well,” Bickford said of Werts. “I plan to support him 100 percent.”

Throughout the morning, Werts and Bickford sat together and chatted as officials from the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, along with volunteers from the Republican and Democratic parties, recounted ballots.

Werts and Bickford said the wait for the recount and a final outcome had been nerve-wracking and they were glad it was finally over.

They joked that if they had known it was going to be so close, they may not have even run for the seat. 

“I don’t know how you get it any closer than this,” Werts said. “It’s just incredible to me that it came out this close.”

Werts said the closeness of the race impressed upon him the importance of maintaining a moderate stance. He said the campaign for the seat was a tough one but always civil, even through the recount process.

“Obviously, we are going to disagree on some policy stuff, but I think Bruce did a good job,” Werts said. “I think he was a good representative. People liked him; people trusted him and that showed in the results.”

He canvassed the district, which covers parts of both Lewiston and Auburn, two times during the campaign, Werts said. He said he campaigned hard and the close race was a testament to his opponent.

Werts also said his narrow victory would stick with him as he moved on to work with other lawmakers in Augusta. 

“I was a moderate to begin with and this does nothing but solidify my stance,” Werts said. “People are tired of the ledge-sitting. They want something done and that means crossing the aisle, that means compromise, that means negotiating and getting something done for the citizens of Maine and stopping the polarization.”

Thursday’s recount was the fourth this week for the Legislature. In all four, results from Election Day have withstood the challenge of the recount.

On Wednesday, incumbent Reps. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, Melvin Newendyke, R-Litchfield, and Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, were declared the winners in their respective races after recounts.

Volk represents House District 127, Newendyke House District 80 and Hayes House District 94.

Seven more recounts have been scheduled, including Maine Senate District 17, which covers much of Androscoggin County. That recount between Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, and Democratic challenger Colleen Quint of Minot was scheduled for Friday afternoon.

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