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Opponents concede as Maine GOP primary heads to ranked round

July 15, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2020 file photo, Republican Dale Crafts delivers his opening statement at the start of a GOP debate in Lewiston, Maine. Crafts is one of three GOP candidates seeking the party's nomination for Maine's 2nd Congressional District in July 14 primary. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2020 file photo, Republican Dale Crafts delivers his opening statement at the start of a GOP debate in Lewiston, Maine. Crafts is one of three GOP candidates seeking the party's nomination for Maine's 2nd Congressional District in July 14 primary. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2020 file photo, Republican Dale Crafts delivers his opening statement at the start of a GOP debate in Lewiston, Maine. Crafts is one of three GOP candidates seeking the party's nomination for Maine's 2nd Congressional District in July 14 primary. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP, File)

The opponents of a former Maine state representative conceded to him in a Republican primary for a competitive U.S. House seat, but with former state Rep. Dale Crafts falling short of 50% of the vote, a winner may not be declared for days.

In Tuesday’s primary, Crafts fell short of the threshold required under Maine law to avoid a ranked-choice runoff round. The Maine Department of the Secretary of State said Wednesday the winner won’t be decided until the ranked votes are tabulated in Augusta, which begins Friday and could take days.

Crafts, who served eight years in the Maine Legislature, cast himself as a new ally for President Donald Trump in Washington. He also had the backing of former Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a vocal Trump supporter.

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Crafts ran for the nomination against former television reporter — and LePage’s former spokesperson — Adrienne Bennett and former state Sen. Eric Brakey. Brakey conceded late Tuesday night and Bennett followed on Wednesday morning.

Crafts campaigned on reducing regulations, growing jobs and shrinking the government. He will run against Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who was elected in 2018.

“It is time to unify together as Republicans and Mainers to bring common sense Maine values to Washington,” Crafts said.

Golden previously benefited from the state’s ranked choice voting system, which allows voters to reapportion their second-choice votes if their preferred candidate comes in last. A second round of counting had propelled Golden over the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

Ranked choice voting is unlikely to be a factor in the general election because third-party candidates have not emerged. Democrats will be looking to hold their lead in the U.S. House of Representatives nationwide.

The vast, mostly rural 2nd Congressional District is geographically the largest Congressional district east of the Mississippi River, and has been hotly contested in recent elections.

Trump decisively won its electoral vote in the 2016 presidential election. Maine is one of two states to apportion electoral votes by district.

The district figures to be in play for Trump again this year, though his approval nationwide has taken a hit amid the coronavirus pandemic. A June poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found a majority of Americans think Trump is exacerbating tensions in a moment of crisis.

All three Republicans in this year’s House primary cast themselves as potential key allies for Trump.

Golden, who ran unopposed in this year’s Democratic primary, was the sole congressman who cast a split vote on the two decisions about whether to impeach President Trump. He said the House investigation “unearthed a pattern of evidence that demonstrates the corrupt intent on the part of the president,” but he also said Trump’s efforts to obstruct Congress didn’t rise to the level of a crime.

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Whittle reported from Portland.