Eight GOP, two Democratic candidates drop out of State House races; 7 stories you need to read

The list of candidate withdrawals in the general election, according to the Secretary of State's office.

The list of candidate withdrawals in the general election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Eight Republican candidates and two Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives have dropped out of their respective races, eating into the GOP’s efforts to portray its slate of candidates as strong heading into the November election.

Most of the GOP drop-outs were in urban districts where historically, Republicans have had little or no chance of success, including four districts in the Portland and South Portland areas.

In late July, dozens of Republican candidates gathered outside the State House to tout the fact that the party had candidates for 150 out of 151 House seats. I was among the reporters who covered it. The 150 House candidates was unquestionably a high-water mark for the GOP in recent years and the party claimed that it was evidence of enthusiasm among conservatives that could lead to a Republican House majority come January when the new Legislature is seated.

With an increasingly unpopular Democratic president in the White House, Republican enthusiasm may well be high, though Democrats dispute this, citing a series of in-state polls in which respondents self-identified as Democrats in higher numbers than voter registration data indicates there actually are. It feeds into an argument by Democrats that legislative Republicans are vulnerable because of their support of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who is also running for re-election and is neck-and-neck in the polls with Democrat Mike Michaud.

Given the hyper-local nature of House races, tying to predict which party will come out on top is a fool’s errand. But I doubt the GOP would have held its July press conference if its slate of candidates looked then like it looks now — even though 142 GOP candidates is a strong showing and more than the 137 Democratic candidates.

The GOP House candidate drop-outs are as follows: Daphne G. Warren in District 14 in the Saco area; Stephen J. Popp in District 31 in South Portland; Kenneth Earl Myrick in District 32, also in South Portland; Jonathan Pfaff in District 37, which is in Portland; Ashley Joy Ryan in District 39, also Portland; James W. Sorcek in District 59 in the Lewiston area; Brian Wood in District 61 also in the Lewiston area; and Benjamin Bryant in District 97, the Belfast area.

The two Democratic dropouts — and I realize I’m just reiterating the graphic that tops this post — are Elaine Marie Plourde in District 17 in the Lyman area and George T. Schools in District 144 in the Houlton area.

Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said on Friday that the drop-outs indicate what the Democratic Party has believed for months, that some on the Republican slate were never serious about their candidacies and may have been pressured into having their names on the ballot — even though in some cases, as reported in the BDN, their residency in their districts was questionable.

“I think this just fits the pattern of them trying to explain away their failures,” said Grant. “There were clearly some irregularities with their recruiting process. If they didn’t break the rules, they certainly bent them.”

Maine GOP spokesman David Sorensen said essentially the same thing that Grant did: that Democrats were trying to distract from their policy records.

“Democrats are resorting to this kind of inside baseball because they know they don’t have the issues on their side,” said Sorensen.

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Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.