It’s been no big secret to anyone who follows Maine politics that the battle for the Senate District 27 seat currently held by Senator Justin Alfond has been a mess. State Representatives Diane Russell and Ben Chipman and Charles Radis have been battling each other for the vote. The flak that Rep. Chipman has taken has been strong, even leading sitting Senator Alfond to throw his support behind Rep. Chipman. Senator Alfond specifically stated that “The actions by Rep. Russell and her campaign” and his belief that “Portland deserves a Senator who bring out the best of our city” led to his endorsement of Rep. Chipman.
Senate District 27 voters agree with Senator Alfond’s assessment.
Rep. Chipman overcame strong opposition and a lot of money being poured into his opponent’s warchest from outside the district. According to the Associated Press, Rep. Russell “received $6,706 in itemized contributions from individual donors in California” and of “about $36,000 from named donors who gave an average $32 per contribution”, only roughly $5,700 came from Mainers.
Undoubtedly, Rep. Russell raised her profile during the height of the battle between Senator Bernie Sanders and the Democratic establishment. She put forth a resolution against superdelegates and then battled Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Raymond Buckley publicly after the fact. The name made during the power struggle likely generated a lot of interest nationally, as shown by the fundraising numbers.
Given Rep. Russell’s strong support of Bernie Sanders, it was bizarre that her campaign attacked Rep. Chipman for being a former Independent who became enrolled for a party primary. Bernie Sanders has long been an Independent United States Senator, who only became a Democrat to run in the presidential primary.
Rep. Chipman also faced an Ethics complaint from a Rep. Russell supporter. The complaint alleged that Rep. Chipman did not properly report fundraising and spending numbers related to a mailer in support of his candidacy. After Rep. Chipman cooperated with the investigation, the Ethics Commission decided not to pursue the complaint.
Rep. Russell herself faced fines from the Ethics Commission totaling $2,000 last December for failing to report several expenditures for over a year. She also received a $2,131 penalty for violating campaign finance law after her Working Families PAC failed to file reports in January and July 2015.
In the end, the negative mailers and attacks or big spending by opponents didn’t prove effective. Rep. Chipman took 53% of the vote, with Charles Radis coming in at 24% and Rep. Russell finishing last at 23%.
Rep. Chipman will now face Republican Mark Lockman and Green Party candidate Seth Baker in the general election contest for Senator Alfond’s District 27 seat.