- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Two Republicans were running neck and neck late Tuesday in the 1st Congressional District, seeking to face Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree in the fall.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, the race was too close to call with Republican Ande Smith of North Yarmouth leading with 50.5 percent of the vote in unofficial returns. His opponent Mark Holbrook had 49.5 percent.

Smith, a Navy veteran and attorney, positioned himself as an economic conservative who believes Roe vs. Wade, which gave women the right to abortions, is the “law of the land.” He’s spent roughly $16,000 on ads attacking Pingree that draw upon the style the irreverent cartoon show South Park.

Holbrook, who has a doctoral degree in psychology, positioned himself as a conservative who “will work hard to make America safe and great again.” He supported repealing Obamacare, building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and placing a pause on the entry of all immigrants and all refugees.

Ahead of the primary, Smith sharply outraised Holbrook by bringing in more than $130,000 in individual contributions compared to Holbrook’s $24,591.

Legislative primaries, meanwhile, aimed to determine who’s on the November ballot as the major political parties battle for control of the Legislature.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage weighed in on the Senate District 23 race, endorsing Bowdoin business owner Guy Lebida over a fellow Republican, incumbent Sen. Linda Baker of Topsham. With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Lebida was just barely leading with 51 percent over Baker in unofficial returns.

Democrats were competing for seats vacated by several top Democratic state senators, including Sen. Justin Alfond of Portland, the minority leader. State Rep. Ben Chipman won over the well-financed Rep. Diane Russell and Chuck Radis in the Democratic primary for the seat vacated by Alfond.

In York County, the youngest openly gay legislator in the country when he was first elected four years ago won a Democratic primary in Senate District 31. Rep. Justin Chenette, 25, beat political veteran Barry Hobbins for the opportunity to run for the seat vacated by longtime Sen. Linda Valentino.

Republican challengers battled in districts currently represented by Republican Sens. Michael Willette of Presque Isle and Earle McCormick of West Gardiner.

Republican Bryan Cutchen, a retired Navy admiral, received 59 percent of the vote in unofficial returns, defeating Gardiner City Councilor Maureen Blanchard in Senate District 14. In the district’s Democratic primary, Democrat and former U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows defeated Terry Berry for McCormick’s seat.

Also on the ballot were municipal issues such as school budgets. And in Freeport, residents voted to ban disposable plastic shopping bags.

Last year, York became the first town in Maine to ban plastic shopping bags. A number of Maine communities, including Portland, South Portland and Falmouth, have imposed 5-cent fees on shopping to discourage litter.

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