- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine’s state legislature grew increasingly divided as Maine Democrats gained two seats in the state Senate but failed to wrest control from Republicans.

The Maine Democratic Party and its legislative committees reported spending about $1.5 million on outside spending for Democrats’ bid to protect the House and win at least three Senate seats in more rural districts. The Maine GOP and its campaign committees spent about half that.

Political parties and political action committees supporting Republican and Democratic candidates have reported spending more than $8 million this cycle. Some of that figure includes transfers among committees.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, said Democrats “bucked the national trend” by increasing their numbers in the Senate and winning a majority in the House.

GOP Senate President Michael Thibodeau said it’s the first time since 1980 that Republicans have held the majority in the state Senate in consecutive legislative sessions. “Maine voters have once again validated the efforts of Senate Republicans to reform welfare and improve our business environment,” Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau, who said he expects to once again run for president, held a narrow lead over Democratic candidate Jonathan Fulford midday Wednesday. That race was still too close to call.

Republican senatorial candidates Lisa Keim and Dana Dow unseated two Democratic incumbents - Sens. John Patrick and Chris Johnson - in races that together saw half a million dollars in outside spending. Democratic candidates Shenna Bellows, Michael Carpenter, Troy Jackson and Eloise Vitelli won Senate seats in Republican districts without incumbents.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Cryway defended his seat against Democratic Rep. Henry Beck in a race that attracted the highest levels of outside spending: $411,000. Meanwhile, incumbent Democratic Sen. David Miramant won by just 691 more votes than GOP challenger David Emery.

The picture was less clear for the Maine House of Representatives, where Democrats had controlled 78 out of 151 seats and appear to still maintain a majority.

By Wednesday, unofficial results showed Democrats won 74 seats, Republicans had 68 seats and two seats went to Independents. Races in seven districts remained too close to call.

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