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Three incumbent Maine lawmakers defeated in legislative primaries

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Three incumbent Maine lawmakers defeated in legislative primaries

Jun 12, 2024 | 10:21 am ET
By Evan Popp
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Three incumbent Maine lawmakers defeated in legislative primaries
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Maine House District 65 Democratic candidates Bruce White (left) and Cassie Julia (right). Julia defeated White in Tuesday's primary election. (Maine Legislature photo; Courtesy of Cassie Julia)

Three incumbent Maine lawmakers are set to lose their legislative seats after being defeated in Tuesday’s primary election, including a Democratic House member who faced opposition from a major reproductive health care group. 

There were 17 contested legislative primaries on Tuesday. One was in Waterville’s House District 65, where community advocate and planning board member Cassie Julia knocked off incumbent Rep. Bruce White in the Democratic primary, receiving about 64% of the vote. She will face Republican Tammy Brown in November.

Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC endorsed Julia in April — a notable move for a group that typically doesn’t wade into Democratic primaries. In that endorsement, the organization cited a series of votes White took against bills to protect abortion. 

White’s stances on abortion put him at odds with most Democrats in the Maine Legislature, who like members of the party at the national level have largely coalesced around protecting reproductive health rights, particularly since Roe v. Wade was overturned. However, prior to the election, White argued that the Democratic Party has to “have a place for opposing viewpoints on every issue” if it wants to stay relevant. 

After the results came in Tuesday night, Lisa Margulies, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund PAC, said it is clear that voters “expect our elected leaders to protect our reproductive rights and freedoms and if you do not, we will exercise our right to replace you with someone who will.” 

“We look forward to working with Cassie Julia and other lawmakers who will fight for Mainers’ reproductive rights and do everything in their power to ensure every Mainer has access to the health care they need, when they need it,” Margulies added. 

In the lead-up to the election, Julia named reproductive and LGBTQ rights, the state’s housing shortage, its mental health care system, a lack of access to health care, and the underfunding of education as the most pressing issues facing Maine. 

White said a top issue is property tax relief, particularly for older Mainers. He added that the state must continue to support businesses and that funding for mental health treatment, affordable housing, food insecurity and nursing home care is needed as well.

Rep. Haggan beats Sen. Lyford in Senate District 10

Another incumbent was defeated in Senate District 10, which encompasses parts of Penobscot and Hancock counties. In that race, Rep. David Haggan beat incumbent Sen. Peter Lyford with 56% of the vote in the Republican primary. Haggan will face Democrat Michele Daniels in November.

According to Haggan’s campaign website, if elected, he intends to focus on gun rights, reducing energy and living costs, protecting parental rights and reducing the size of state government, among other priorities. Haggan is a middle school social studies teacher. 

Prior to the election, Lyford said the number one issue facing Mainers is the economy and pointed to inflation as well as high energy and food costs as pressing issues. Lyford was elected to the Senate in 2022 after serving four terms in the House. 

Lebida bests Rep. Galletta in House District 98

A third sitting legislator lost in House District 98, which includes Durham and Pownal and parts of Bowdoin, Lisbon and Topsham. In that contest, Guy Lebida beat incumbent Rep. Joseph Galletta in the Republican primary. Lebida will face Democrat Kilton Webb in November. 

One issue that emerged in the race is that Galletta missed two-thirds of the Legislature’s days in session this year, according to a report from the Portland Press Herald. 

In the lead-up to the election, Lebida said the top issues facing Maine citizens are the high cost of living and high taxes. If elected, he said his top priority would be to reduce electricity costs, which he hopes will also lower the cost of food and other essentials. Lebida added that he would focus on public education, which he thinks is currently inadequate in the state.

Galletta also named the tax burden placed on citizens as a top issue and said he wanted to work on reeling in state spending and making the state more enticing for people to stay and work. He added that he would focus on expanding business opportunities and parental rights.

Victories for incumbents 

Several other incumbents beat back primary challenges on Tuesday. 

In Senate District 27 in Portland and Westbrook, Sen. Jill Duson defeated Kenneth Capron in the Democratic primary with 89% of the vote. 

In House District 24 — which includes Veazie and parts of Bangor, Brewer and Orono — Rep. Joseph Perry beat challenger Zachary Smith with 72% of the vote in the Democratic primary.

And in House District 78 — which encompasses Bethel, Byron, Hanover, Milton Township, Roxbury, Rumford — Rep. Rachel Henderson defeated Nathan White with 74% of the vote in the Republican primary.