- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine voters face a number of tight elections on Tuesday, including one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country and a decision about whether to legalize marijuana.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump also is fighting hard to take an electoral vote out of Maine. He has found support in the congressional district that covers rural northern and eastern parts of the state.

The most expensive U.S. House race in Maine history also ends Tuesday as voters choose between first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democratic former state Sen. Emily Cain.

There are also several ballot questions, including initiatives that seek to expand background checks for gun sales, increase the minimum wage and tax high earners to pay for education. Marijuana legalization appears as the top question on the list.

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CRUCIAL ELECTORAL VOTE

Maine is one of two states that portion out electoral votes by congressional district, and polls show a tight race in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers northern and eastern Maine.

Trump’s message about keeping jobs on American soil has found support in the area, which has struggled in the wake of textile and paper mill closures. While unlikely to tip the results of the presidential election, it represents a rare chance for the Republican to win an electoral vote in New England.

The state will give out two electoral votes for the statewide vote and one each for the two congressional districts. Clinton has a wide lead in the 1st Congressional District and seems poised to win the state at large.

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MAINE GOING TO POT?

Maine is one of five states considering legalization of recreational use of marijuana this year.

The statewide referendum comes in the wake of a pair of cities, Portland and South Portland, approving legalization on the local level. Another city, Lewiston, shot down a similar proposal.

If approved, Maine would allow cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana and marijuana products. Marijuana would be taxed at 10 percent and subject to local restrictions.

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TIGHT CONGRESSIONAL RACE

Poliquin wants to return to Washington, but Cain is running a tough campaign in a race that has attracted numerous attack ads and lots of spending.

Poliquin defeated Cain in 2014. This time around, the two candidates together have raised more than $6 million. Poliquin has made the case that Cain is a career politician who would raise taxes, while Cain has painted Poliquin as too close to Wall Street.

Poliquin and Cain are running for a seat in the same district that is hotly contested in the presidential race. Maine’s other congressional race is between Democratic incumbent Rep. Chellie Pingree and political newcomer Mark Holbrook, a Republican.

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GUNS, TAXES, MINIMUM WAGE

There are also a slew of other referendum items on the ballot. One of the most contentious concerns new requirements for background checks for people who buy firearms.

If approved, it would require the checks before the sale or transfer of firearms between people who are not licensed as firearms dealers. Failure to do so would be punishable by law.

Spending on the five ballot questions has included $4.3 million to fund more than 10,000 television ads supporting or opposing them. The question attracting the most money has been the background check initiative.


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