Diane Hodges works 2nd Congressional District ranked-choice voting tabulation Friday in the Cross State Office Building in Augusta. Former state Rep. Dale Crafts won Tuesday’s initial round of voting, but did not crack 50% of the vote, which triggered a ranked runoff under Maine law. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

As state officials scurry to finish counting all the votes in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, an outside group that recently polled the race estimated Monday that Dale Crafts will likely wind up with 58% of the ballots in the final round of ranked-choice voting.

FairVote, a Maryland-based nonprofit, estimated the Lisbon businessman will defeat Adrienne Bennett of Bangor by a 58-42 margin once all the votes are tallied and third-place finisher Eric Brakey’s are redistributed to the remaining candidates.

Bennett and Brakey have conceded to Crafts in a joint appearance in Lisbon on July 15, the morning after the election.

But a concession lacks any formal meaning. Only actual votes matter.

“It’s kind of like a courtesy,” Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said. “Legally, it has no standing.”

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn holds the door open for workers rolling a cart of blue ballot boxes into a counting room to start 2nd Congressional District ranked-choice voting tabulation Friday in the Cross State Office Building in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The Secretary of State’s office has been gathering the ballots from across the sprawling district and preparing to run a final tabulation that will provide the formal results. It plans to run a final count at 10 a.m. Tuesday.


Crafts said in a statement that it “seems completely ridiculous to me that we would perform a “dog and pony show” to tally the ranked-choice voting results.

“As a businessman, I understand that you don’t spend money you don’t need on things you can’t afford,” he said. “I understand that liberals love the ranked-choice voting scheme,” which Maine voters have endorsed at the polls twice, “but to spend money on something that doesn’t even matter is offensive to me as a taxpayer.”

Though Crafts is virtually certain to be the GOP’s standard bearer in the Nov. 3 general election versus U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a first-term Lewiston Democrat, Bennett still has an exceedingly small chance of coming out on top.

In the first round of balloting, Crafts got 45% of the vote compared to 32% for Bennett and 23% for Brakey.

Though nobody thinks it happened, if nearly everyone who voted for Brakey picked Bennett for second choice, she could squeeze past Crafts at the finish line.

Dunlap said that in ranked-choice elections, though, redistributed votes rarely change the outcome.


But Golden is proof that it can happen.

In 2018, he trailed Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin in the initial tally on Election Day but when the second-choice picks of two independents in the race were factored in, the Democrat emerged with a 3,500-vote lead – and a seat in the Congress.

Last week’s GOP primary in the district, however, did not prove especially close so the chance that ranked-choice voting results will overturn Crafts apparent win are vanishingly small.

After ballots were run through a scanner, a worker stacks another ballot box back onto the cart Friday during 2nd Congressional District ranked choice voting tabulation in the Cross State Office Building in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

FairVote said the outcome of ranked polling “often reveals breadth of support for certain candidates, which can help a party decide on a consensus nominee — or a candidate supported by a majority of a given electorate.”

It said that “given these benefits, using ranked-choice voting for elections and polling is a no-brainer —and we expect to see use of the method expand in the future.”

For Brakey, the primary proved the enduring power of the GOP establishment.


He said on Twitter he learned months ago that “powerful establishment forces in Washington didn’t want me in Congress, and were increasingly concerned with my front-runner position.”

They didn’t care whether Crafts or Bennett beat him, only that he lost, Brakey said.

Brakey said the Republican leaders tried to get President Donald Trump to weigh in against the former Auburn state senator, but U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Brakey ally, convinced Trump to stay out of it.

Falling short with the president, Brakey said, “the GOP establishment,” probably those with ties to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, spent $400,000 or more through a dark money Super PAC “to smear my name and defeat our campaign.”

On election night, before the polls closed, Brakey said he would have won had the primary been held June 9, as originally scheduled, but the extra time offered as part of the state’s bid to combat COVID-19 gave his foes a chance to come after him.

“They were right to be afraid of us — and they should continue being afraid,” Brakey said.


Heading into the general election, Crafts has little money in his campaign treasury while Golden has $2.1 million.

Both candidates will see a lot of cash flowing into the race in the weeks ahead, however, and experts predict it will wind up again this year among the most expensive House contests in the country.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which pours money into GOP races, has already announced it is allocating at least $1.9 million for advertising to help Crafts.

“Dale Crafts’ story of overcoming adversity to become a family man, job creator, and respected local leader not only should inspire us all, but proves he has what it takes to prevail,” the group said when it announced the funding choice.

Comments are not available on this story.