Maine’s Remaining Swing Towns

One of the criticisms of my previous article on swing towns in Maine was that demographic changes which coincided with increasingly more liberal voting for Governor were responsible for many of the town’s appearance on my list.

By that logic – which, incidentally I both recognize and agree with – some towns were given the impression of picking winners, but in reality were simply trending to the left while the state started voting more to the left in gubernatorial contests.

So, it isn’t a bad idea to revisit those towns and see just how they actually ended up voting.

Let’s start with the towns that got it right.  The following nine Maine towns once again – for the sixth consecutive gubernatorial election – chose the winner of the election.  In this case it is especially noteworthy, because in 2006 they chose a Democrat – John Baldacci – while this year selecting Paul LePage:

  • Castle Hill
  • Greenwood
  • Hammond
  • Jonesport
  • Machiasport
  • Monroe
  • Monson
  • Oakland
  • Readfield

Note that virtually every single one of these towns is inland.  Two are in Aroostook County, two in Kennebec, one in Oxford and Piscataquis and so on.  The exceptions to this are Jonesport and Machiasport, both of which are Down East in Washington County – and we all know that these types of towns have very little in common with midcoast towns like Camden.

Which immediately begins to bring the argument to clarity.  Towns like Bath, Belfast and Camden have dramatically changed over the last couple decades.  The character of the midcoast towns originally on the list have been altered, with new middle to upper class liberal transplants moving into these now “trendy” towns, changing the basic politics of the area.  As the gubernatorial contests went from Jock McKernan to Angus King to John Baldacci, a simultaneous leftward trend appeared in these towns.

This should, incidentally, teach us all a lesson about the dangers of drawing conclusions based entirely on short term correlation.  The above towns really do appear to be bellwethers, but those mid-coast towns which have seen demographic shifts have simply been trending left at a time when the election results drifted left state wide.  Now that the state swung back rightward, those towns have been exposed.

But in addition to the nine true bellwethers above, we also have a group of six towns who deserve to be talked about as at least “quasi-swing towns”.

These towns voted for Eliot Cutler in this election, but just barely.  Given the close nature of this election (roughly 2%) and the virtual parity between LePage and Cutler, it would be unfair to remove these towns from the swing town list entirely.  They got it very close, and in future elections may tell us almost as much as the true bellwethers above:

  • Northport – 0.65%
  • Wayne- 2.21%
  • Bremen- 3.45%
  • Montville- 3.6%
  • St. George- 4.6%
  • Freedom- 5.03%

And then of course, we have the “swing-frauds”.  I already explained these above – but most of these towns are on the mid-coast region of Maine, and have increasingly tilted to the left as the years have gone by.  Their selection in the gubernatorial contests only appeared to be predictive based on the corresponding coincidence of how these towns changed, and the end results of the elections.  In the end, however, they are not true swing towns.  These all voted for Cutler decisively, gave decent support to Mitchell, and essentially rejected LePage:

  • Bath
  • Belfast
  • Camden
  • Deer Isle
  • Frenchboro
  • Islesboro
  • Lincolnville
  • Newcastle
  • North Haven
  • Stockton Springs

And then of course, there is the completely backwards and insane town which actually voted for Libby Mitchell:

  • Ogunquit

So, when 2014 rolls around and you are waiting for the results to pour in to see if Governor LePage will be re-elected, keep an eye on that first list of nine towns – they are the true swing towns in the state of Maine.

Deer Isle
North Haven
Stockton Springs
Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.