MAINE, USA — All three candidates for the Republican nomination for Maine's 2nd Congressional District seat held a press conference Wednesday morning. Both Eric Brakey and Adrienne Bennett had already conceded, and both reiterated their support for Dale Crafts during the press conference.
The winner needs 50 percent of the vote or the race will go into rank choice voting. Based on unofficial vote tallies reported so far from the municipalities in Congressional District 2, none of the three Republican candidates seeking the party’s nomination have achieved this threshold: Dale Crafts has 44.9% of the votes; Adrienne Bennett has 32.6% and Eric Brakey has 22.6%.
“I want to personally congratulate Dale Crafts on his victory last night. We may have disagreements on certain issues but there’s certainly far more that we agree on than we disagree," Brakey said at the press conference.
But will those concessions stop a ranked-choice count? Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told NEWS CENTER Maine's Pat Callaghan Wednesday morning "that's a question for the lawyers."
Later in the afternoon, however, Dunlap announced the tabulation of results will require the ranked-choice voting process. Ballot collection will begin Thursday throughout the 2nd Congressional District and the process of the ballot materials is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Friday in the Burton R. Cross State Office Building, Dunlap said.
“You have to keep in mind the ranked-choice voting law is still very new," Dunlap added Wednesday afternoon. “There is no provision in the ranked-choice voting law to not do the rankings because candidates concede.”
Secretary of State Department staff members must log, unlock and unseal each ballot box from hand-count towns to scan the ballots using a high-speed tabulator and log, unseal, and upload all the memory devices from tabulator towns and cities before loading all the votes into the results program and then certifying the results to ensure accuracy.
Dunlap says the official results are expected by Friday, July 24.
“Yeah, you could see a change, historically that has not proven to be likely," Dunlap said.
Dale Crafts spoke to the media Tuesday night after a 'landside' win in Turner and a big victory in Lewiston. He said, "it's pretty much over."
Crafts is running for the 2nd congressional district, a seat currently occupied by freshman congressman Jared Golden -- who unseated former congressman Bruce Poliquin under ranked-choice voting.
Crafts held his election night party at Mason Excavation in Lisbon Falls. He arrived just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night to greet supporters.
Crafts took an early lead and those in attendance at his event were excited every time a member of the campaign came out of the office to read new results.
Crafts was hoping to not have the election go into a runoff but said he's confident he will win in rank choice voting.
"If we just won tonight, even if it was a little bit, we felt we would win it with rank choice voting," Crafts said.
"We're very very encouraged. The numbers are way up, we think it's going to trend that way for the rest of the night," he added.
As Crafts was confident he would be the GOP nominee in Lisbon, Eric Brakey conceded up the road in Lewiston.
Brakey surprised supports by conceding the 2nd Congressional District race at about 10:30 p.m. He told his supporters via Facebook LIVE that he saw no path to victory. He added, if Dale Crafts agrees to support a position to bring troops home from Afganistan, he will get his support.
In Bangor, Adrienne Bennett arrived at her watch party at Dysart's on Broadway. She told her supporters, "It’s been a long couple of months and now it will be a long couple of hours.”
Bennett did not address the media at any point during the evening, her staff told NEWS CENTER Maine they expect to go into a runoff with Crafts and for the race to be called at a later date.
Crafts said he's ready to take on freshman congressman Jared Golden.
"The hard part when you're running against your own republican friends, you know it's your own party. At least with Jared, there's quite a bit of contrast between us."
None of the three GOP candidates wore masks on primary day and few, if any of their supporters were masked.