Breaking News
More () »

Main takeaways from Election Night 2021 and looking ahead to 2022

We analyze how Mainers voted Tuesday and what they might focus on next year

PORTLAND, Maine — With Election Night 2021 come and gone, some politicos are already looking ahead to 2022 and what Tuesday's results could mean for Maine politics going forward. 

National election results

Nationally, eyes were drawn to elections in Virginia, and it's not immediately clear if voting results from across the country will impact Maine races next year, according to Mark Brewer, professor and interim chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Maine. 

Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, said while he doesn't believe election results in other states impact Maine races directly, they are an indicator people across America, including Mainers, are "getting fed up with the Biden/Mills agenda." 

"I think next year's Maine elections will be decided by Maine voters and focused on Maine issues and not impacted by what happens in other states," Jacob Stern, communications director to the Maine Democratic Party, said

The spokesperson added current Democratic leadership in Maine has "delivered tremendous results for Maine people, kept Mainers safe during the pandemic and grown Maine's economy." 

Brewer said there's plenty of time between now and November 2022. 

"A lot of things can change," Brewer said. 

The professor added, "If you are looking at yesterday as a snapshot, yesterday was a good day for Republicans and a not-so-good day for Democrats."

In Maine, Brewer said the most obvious places to look for possible insights from Tuesday's results will be the gubernatorial race, with the position currently held by Gov. Janet Mills, and Maine's 2nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Jared Golden. 

So far, former Republican Gov. Paul LePage has officially challenged Mills. And former Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin has challenged Golden. 

As for whether a close gubernatorial race in Virginia could serve as a sort of crystal ball for Maine's own 2022 gubernatorial election, Brewer said, while Virginia is a different place, results from there certainly could provide some foresight. 

Right now, in the American political climate, Brewer said the pendulum would appear to have swung back in favor of Republicans and against Democrats. He added Dems were advantaged in 2018 and 2020. 

President Joe Biden has suffered setbacks, and the party has been unable to pass signature pieces of legislation. Combine that with a resurgence of COVID in the form of the Delta variant, global supply chain issues and inflation, and voters are going to put the blame for those kinds of things on the party currently in power, according to the professor. Nationally, that's Democrats. 

Of course, he added, things could change. Policies could change. 

"It could be a whole different world [in 2022]," the professor said. "Where we are right now is advantage Republicans." 

Special legislative election

In Maine, Democrat Raegan LaRochelle flipped a seat in the special election for House District 86, defeating Republican James Orr on Tuesday. But Brewer said he was hesitant to put any stock in one race trying to predict how Maine legislative elections may go next year.  

"That's a much bigger political environment than one district. I wouldn't want to speculate too much on that," the professor said.

Stern called the special election win the biggest takeaway for Maine Democrats.

"Simply put, it's very unusual for a seat to flip from one party to another during a special election, but that's what happened yesterday," he said. 

House District 86 hasn't been held by a Democrat since 2012, according to Stern. 

The Democrat said he anticipates the results from this special election will be on the minds of all legislative candidates in 2022. 

"While we didn't win this particular election, we learned from it," Savage said. "One key focus for us is always learning from our wins and losses." 

The Republican said his party will be making adjustments and going over this to improve its 2022 performance. 

Questions 1-3

Looking at Maine's ballot measures on Tuesday, Brewer said Question 2 was simple to analyze because transportation bonds almost always pass. Mainers drive on roads each day and know they need work to stay functional, he said. 

But Question 1 on the Central Maine Power Corridor was complex, and the divisions on both sides of that issue didn't match traditional partisan lines, according to the professor. 

"For me, the easiest way to explain the outcome is a lot of Mainers don't have a good opinion of CMP. This was the CMP Corridor, associated with Central Maine Power," he said. 

On the third ballot measure, Brewer said, "Question 3, in my opinion, is incredibly vague." 

He said it probably passed because "right to food" sounds good at face value. 

"I don't think a lot of people thought about implications further down the road," the professor said. 

2022 issues

Though Election Day 2022 is a year away, it might not be too early to get a list of potential political frontrunners across Maine and look at what might become the biggest issues with voters. 

"Inflation is a huge issue," Brewer said. "Americans encounter that every day. Mainers are the same way. People know they're paying more for the stuff they need." 

If that continues to be the case in 2022, inflation could be a top issue, according to Brewer. And COVID continues to be a big issue, but whether it stays is a matter for time to work out. 

Looking at Virginia election results, education is an issue with voters, according to the professor. And that comes partly out of COVID, but it's not just related to the pandemic. 

"We've got a pretty broad concern in the U.S. about what kids are being taught in public schools," the professor said. 

He added if things stay the same right now, those could be the three biggest issues in Maine next year. 

"Those would be my three," he said.

Savage said he thinks the biggest takeaway for Maine Republicans after Tuesday was Maine people care more about their families, their schools and local communities than going along with national political agendas.  

As for looking ahead to issues in 2022, the Republican said Maine's children (and their education), jobs, the economy, inflation, loss of health care workers and hospital shortages will continue to be important.   

Stern said members of the Maine Democratic Party's Platform Committee are still developing the platform. 

"We look forward to what they bring forward at our convention next year," he added. 

Even though Election Night 2022 is a year away, both Republicans and Democrats are already at work on their respective campaigns to put before Mainers.