This diary is the second part of a seven-part series on Maine’s political geography. In this part, I will discuss the four counties of Mid-Coast Maine: Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo. These counties make up the coast of Maine between the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers.
Color code for the maps below (and for all other maps like this that I draw):
Darkest blue: 80%+ for Democrats
Dark blue: 70-79.99% for Democrats
Normal blue: 60-69.99% for Democrats
Lighter blue: 55-59.99% for Democrats
Lightest blue: 50-54.99% for Democrats
Yellow: No candidate received an absolute majority of votes
Pink: 50-54.99% for Republicans
Normal red: 55-59.99% for Republicans
Brown: 60-69.99% for Republicans
Dark red: 70-79.99% for Republicans
Darkest red: 80%+ for Republicans
Gray on the State Senate map represents towns won by independent candidates. White represents towns where no one voted. Green represents uninhabited townships.
Here is a map of Obama’s performance by town in 2012:
Here is a map of Maine’s Question 1 (gay marriage) in 2012:
Here is a map of Maine’s State Senate results in 2012:
Follow me over the fold to begin… with Sagadahoc County!
Sagadahoc County is Maine’s smallest county both in terms of area and in the number of towns in the county (only 10). Sagadahoc is not just small, but it is also divided into two equally populous, disconnected pieces by Merrymeeting Bay. One piece is more inland, while the other consists mostly of peninsulas and islands on the Maine coast.
The inland part consists of the towns of Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, and Richmond. Topsham is the largest town here, and is also the largest town in the whole county (though it is not the county seat). Topsham lies north of and across the Androscoggin River from Brunswick, home to Bowdoin College (Bowdoin College is NOT in the town of Bowdoin). Topsham and Bowdoinham are Democratic towns, possibly from the influence of Brunswick (which is very liberal). Richmond leans slightly Democratic, while Bowdoin is more Republican (possibly because it doesn’t border any major rivers or bays, and such bodies of water correlate to better Democratic performance in Maine).
The coastal part consists of three mainland towns (Bath, West Bath, and Woolwich) and three island towns (Phippsburg, Arrowsic, and Georgetown). Bath is the major town here, and is the county seat of Sagadahoc County. Woolwich lies across the Kennebec River from Bath, and is the second-biggest town here. The island towns contain the popular state parks of Popham Beach (Phippsburg) and Reid (Georgetown); the latter contains a great example of the rocky intertidal zone of Maine’s coast (I visited there with my ecology class last fall). The coastal part is, overall, more Democratic than the inland part; Bath, Arrowsic, and Georgetown are all solidly Democratic, while Phippsburg, West Bath, and Woolwich lean Democratic. All three of the island towns here actually swung toward Obama in 2012; in the other Mid-Coast counties you will see that this is a trend.
Sagadahoc is not just Democratic but also leans socially liberal as well. It voted against gay marriage in 2009 by only 73 votes, and voted 55% for gay marriage in 2012. In 2012, the coastal-inland divide showed up again, as the coastal towns all voted for gay marriage while Bowdoin and Richmond voted against gay marriage, and Topsham was much closer. Sagadahoc seems to be about two points to the left of Maine as a whole on gay marriage.
All four of the Mid-Coast counties I will discuss here have approximately the same population, and this population is also just the right size for a State Senate district. Thus, each county here has its own State Senate district. Sagadahoc’s district was represented by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall (D-Richmond) until he resigned recently. Goodall was broadly popular throughout the county, and in 2012 he was only close in the one town in the district that’s in Lincoln County and not Sagadahoc. There will probably be a special election sometime this year to fill this seat, and the Democrats would be favored due to Sagadahoc’s blue lean. However, this is independent Maine, so anything could happen.
Lincoln County, unlike the three other counties described in this diary, does not have just one or two population centers. The largest town here is Waldoboro (which is NOT in Waldo County), however Wiscasset, Boothbay, Bristol, and Newcastle/Damariscotta are all population centers. It might seem logical to divide the county in half using the Damariscotta River, but in fact the most important divide seems to be the center of the county versus the western and eastern areas. In general, the towns in the central part of the county (including Bristol, Newcastle, and Damariscotta) are Democratic towns. The Newcastle/Damariscotta area is known for its scenic beauty, and thus has attracted the ‘creative types’ who tend to vote Democratic. In addition, the area is a big tourist destination.
The western part of the county includes Wiscasset (the county seat) and the Boothbay area. Boothbay Harbor (which is also touristy) leans Democratic, but the rest of this area is pretty moderate, mostly voting for Obama by narrow margins.
The northern and eastern parts of the county are also moderate. The eastern part of the county consists of only one town (Waldoboro) while the northern part consists of Whitefield, Jefferson, and Somerville. These towns also generally voted narrowly for Obama, while Jefferson actually voted narrowly for Romney.
Finally, Lincoln County also includes the tiny island town of Monhegan Plantation (in Maine, a plantation is an official type of municipality). Monhegan is not just heavily Democratic, but got even more Democratic in 2012, giving Obama a whopping 89 percent of the vote. Unfortunately for Democrats, the island is so tiny that it doesn’t make a huge difference. These dark blue islands will get a bigger discussion under Knox County, which contains more of them.
Lincoln County is another county that voted against gay marriage in 2009 but then supported it in 2012. With gay marriage, there is an even bigger divide between the center of the county and the western, northern, and eastern areas. In the central areas, there was hardly any drop-off from Obama’s performance to Question 1. However, many of the towns that narrowly voted for Obama also narrowly voted against gay marriage. This resulted in a narrow 52-48 victory for gay marriage here in 2012.
Lincoln County’s longtime State Senator was David Trahan, a Republican. However, he resigned in 2011, and the resulting special election was won by Christopher Johnson (D-Somerville). The Democrats taking this seat foreshadowed their taking back the State Senate in 2012. However, in 2012, Johnson maintained his seat only by a very narrow 50.4 - 49.6 margin (this was the second-closest State Senate race in Maine in 2012). He performed the best in the Newcastle/Damariscotta area as well as his normally-Republican-leaning hometown of Somerville, while his opponent did best in the Wiscasset area and Waldoboro. This district did not change in the 2013 redistricting, so Johnson may continue to have close races here.
Knox County is smaller in area than either Lincoln or Waldo Counties, and most of its population lives on or near the coast as opposed to inland. The result of this is that Knox is the most Democratic county in Mid-Coast Maine, and the second-most-Democratic county in all of Maine (after Cumberland). Knox’s three most important towns are Rockland (the county seat), Rockport, and Camden. All three of these towns are on the coast, and all three are heavily Democratic. Knox has a larger share of the creative types than Lincoln or Waldo, partially because of the fact that the coast of Knox County is prettier than that of Lincoln or Waldo. Camden, which is the most Democratic mainland town in Knox County, is situated at the base of the Camden Hills (aka Mount Megunticook) from whose summit there is an amazing view of both Camden and the nearby islands.
Knox County contains five island towns: North Haven, Vinalhaven, Isle Au Haut (pronounced ‘eye la ho’), Matinicus Isle Plantation, and Criehaven Township. The first two are actually substantial towns, while the final three are tiny. All five are heavily Democratic, and as a whole they swung toward Obama in 2012. North Haven and Vinalhaven get lots of people who are wealthy enough to live there, but are mostly ‘creative types’ and thus socially liberal and interested in social justice. North Haven is the hometown of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and she is a good example of the type of people who live on these islands. These islands are also emerging alternative energy hubs; there is a large wind farm on Vinalhaven (the only reason I know this is because I saw the windmills while enjoying the view on top of the Camden Hills). Isle Au Haut is an outpost of Acadia National Park (which is mostly in Hancock County), and like Mount Desert Island, is very liberal.
Only one town in Knox County voted for Romney: Friendship (an ironic name), which is just south of Waldoboro. In addition, both Warren and Washington (inland towns) were very close, and most of the other inland towns voted for Obama by small margins. However, these inland towns are drowned out by the larger, much-more-Democratic coastal towns.
Knox is the most socially liberal county in the Mid-Coast area. It was the only Mid-Coast county to vote for gay marriage in 2009, and it voted 55 percent for gay marriage last year. As with the other coastal counties, there is a big divide between the coastal towns and inland towns on gay marriage (bigger than for Presidential elections). All but one of the inland towns voted against gay marriage, while all but two of the coastal towns (and all of the island towns) voted for gay marriage. Camden is the most socially liberal mainland town in Knox County, mainly because it is a bit more upscale than Rockland, which has a larger (but still relatively small) working-class population.
Even before 2010, Knox County’s heavily-Democratic State Senate district was represented by a Republican, Christopher Rector of Thomaston. This was the most heavily Democratic district in Maine to be represented by a Republican. However, in 2012 Rector was defeated for re-election by Edward Mazurek (D-Rockland). Rector ran up margins in the southern and inland parts of the county, however Mazurek won big in both Rockland and Camden, as well as doing very well on the islands. Mazurek ended up winning 53.5 – 46.5. Since this district voted about 60% for Obama in 2012, Mazurek should be pretty safe.
Waldo is the largest county area-wise in the Mid-Coast region. It is also not as coast-oriented as the other three counties, and has a large inland population that is, unsurprisingly, much less liberal than the coastal towns. The county can be divided into two parts: the liberal-leaning coastal towns, and the rest of the county.
There are really only four towns in Waldo that vote like coastal towns: Belfast (the county seat and largest town), Northport, Lincolnville, and Islesboro (an island town). All four of these towns voted for Obama by substantial margins. Belfast is the most Democratic of the mainland towns, as it is a tourist destination. It is similar to Camden and Rockland, and its main difference is that Coastal Route 1 goes around Belfast rather than through, as it goes through Camden and Rockland. Belfast is the hub of the Democratic Party of Waldo County, and any Democrats hoping to win Waldo must do well in Belfast. Northport and Lincolnville are the two towns between Belfast and Camden, and their proximity to those two towns results in their being more Democratic than the towns northeast of Belfast. Islesboro is Waldo’s one island town, and it is just as Democratic as, and similar in character to, North Haven and Vinalhaven.
The rest of the county does not have any major population centers; the largest towns are Winterport and Searsport. On a map, these towns appear to be on the coast, however northeast of Belfast, the ‘coastline’ is really just the mouth of the Penobscot River, so it doesn’t get the liberal types who want to live on the coast. Most of the inland towns have just 1,000 or 2,000 people, and they are generally pretty similar to each other. As a whole, they are moderate; some narrowly voted for Obama while others narrowly voted for Romney.
Waldo, like Sagadahoc and Lincoln, voted against gay marriage in 2009 but voted narrowly (51-49) for it in 2012. Waldo is about a point to the right of Lincoln on gay marriage, and about two points to the right of Maine on gay marriage. As should not be surprising, Belfast voted strongly for gay marriage, while most of the inland areas voted against it.
Waldo is, as of 2013, the only Mid-Coast Maine county to be represented by a Republican in the State Senate. Waldo County is exactly one district (no added or subtracted towns), and it is represented by Michael Thibodeau (R-Winterport), who is the Senate Minority Leader. Thibodeau got 53.6 percent of the vote in 2012, winning every town except for the four coastal towns I noted earlier and the anomalously-Democratic town of Montville. If Democrats want to take this seat, they will need to do better in Belfast (get around 65 percent there) and make big inroads in the inland towns to balance out Thibodeau’s hometown boost in Winterport (where he got 68 percent). This is a winnable district for Democrats, but they would need a top-tier candidate and a good year.
This concludes Part 2 of my series. In the next part, I will discuss Central Maine: Androscoggin and Kennebec Counties.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and I welcome any feedback or questions!