With the 2016 elections in the rear view mirror, politicos now look ahead to the 2018 midterm elections. In Maine, there are lingering questions over how ranked choice voting, approved by voters in 2016, will alter the state’s political landscape.
U.S. Senator Angus King, one of two independent senators along with Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), already has one likely opponent in his re-election bid, Maine Governor Paul LePage. However, speculation is rising that other challengers will enter the race, including former Maine legislator Cynthia Dill, independent Eliot Cutler, and former state House Rep. Diane Russell (D).
There are quite a few people encouraging me to run.Diane Russell
The ranked choice voting initiative was initially proposed by Russell and former state Senator Dick Woodbury (I).
“I think the voters are hungry for a system that allows them to vote their hopes,” Russell was quoted by the Portland Press Herald in 2014. “Under the current ‘winner-take-all-system,’ the entire system is about polling and spoilers. That’s not what’s great about democracy.”
I asked Russell if she could confirm whether or not she was going to run in 2018. She said she would not rule out challenging Sen. King for his seat.
“There are quite a few people encouraging me to run,” she said.
When asked what role ranked choice voting would play in her decision, she said it certainly played a part. Other factors, of course, would also influence her decision.
I also reached out to Eliot Cutler and Cynthia Dill to confirm their possible candidacies. Dill previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 to fill the seat now occupied by Sen. King. She won the Democratic primary, but lost a 4-way race in November. Cutler launched two independent campaigns for governor in 2010 and 2014.
Dill told me that she presently has no intention of running. When asked what role she thinks ranked choice voting will play in the race, she said, “Assuming rank choice voting survives an anticipated legal challenge, I think it will increase the number of candidates but likely not impact the result.”
She believes that if King runs for re-election, he will win.
Constitutional challenges to ranked choice voting are expected from members of both major political parties. The AP confirmed Friday that state Senate leaders will ask the Maine Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the voting reform.
Photo Source: Diane Russell’s Twitter