Could Democrat win in vacant Senate seat be harbinger for 2012?

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Democrats are giddy over Tuesday’s special election in Senate District 20 that saw Democrat Chris Johnson upset Republican Dana Dow.

Party Chairman Ben Grant said the message from the election was clear and it had little to do with Johnson or Dow.

“Paul LePage’s agenda is wrong for Maine, and Republican Legislators have been far too willing to fall in line in the face of mounting evidence that the GOP’s plans aren’t working,” Grant said. “Under Paul LePage and his GOP allies, Maine lost more jobs per capita in 2011 than any other state in the country. Rather than focusing on jobs, they’ve pushed policies that put Maine families in jeopardy and take money out of the pockets of working and middle class Mainers.”

Even Dow, who currently represents District 50 in the Maine House, admitted as much.

“I would simply say this vote represents a referendum on the governor and maybe the budget we are trying to get passed,” he told the Lincoln County News. “That might have something to do with it. I don’t feel its referendum on Dana Dow. It’s bigger than that. When people are looking for change anything can happen.”

Democrats will no doubt try to parlay Tuesday’s results into success in November, when the remainder of the House and Senate seats are up for grabs. Republicans took control of both chambers during the 2010 elections.

If Dow is right, will Republicans have to distance themselves from LePage in the coming months in order to survive?

Prior to Tuesday, the last special election was for House District 24 in Penobscot and Somerset counties. In that race last November, the Republican candidate, Raymond Wallace, defeated Democrat David Pearson and Independent Lesley Maynard.