Cynthia Dill, a state senator in Maine, won the Democratic primary in the race for retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat on Tuesday, beating out three other Democrats.
As soon as results started coming in, it became clear the real race was between Dill and former Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. Dill defeated Dunlap 44 percent to 36, with 75 of precincts reporting. In a distant third place was Jon Hinck with 13 percent, followed by Benjamin Pollard with 8.
The candidate gobbling up all attention in the race to replace Snowe wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday. Angus King, the former governor, is an independent, and has been steadfast in his refusal to say with which party he would caucus if elected to the Senate, although both parties say they suspect he would cast his lot with Democrats.
Polls show King to be the early favorite in a three-way race between King, a Democrat and a Republican. The odds are much better for King if it’s a race between the independent and the Republican — putting Senate Democrats in the awkward position of deciding whether to snub the Democratic candidates and put their muscle behind King.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and its chairwoman, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), have given few indications about how they will proceed in the race, which became an unexpected but prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats after Snowe announced in February she would retire.
But the DSCC notably did not issue any response or statement Tuesday after the races were called. The DSCC, in states holding competitive Senate races this cycle, has typically issued a statement on primary nights, congratulating the Democratic nominee and previewing Democrats’ lines of attack against the newly minted GOP nominee. That was also the case earlier Tuesday, when the DSCC congratulated former Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic Senate nominee in Virginia, and criticized former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), the winner of the GOP primary.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, in its response, said both of Summers’s opponents stand for a big-government approach. NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Maine deserved a senator like Summers “who will be a real independent thinker and leader.”
Maine Democrats have said they will support their candidate, but acknowledge that many Democratic voters could cast their ballot for King in November.
Democrats in Washington say the prospect of having one fewer GOP senator without having to spend big to knock one off would be like a freebie for Democrats. But they acknowledge that King would likely be a much less dependable vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) than would a true-blue Democrat.
In late April, Dill told The Hill that the involvement or lack of involvement by the DSCC would not make the difference in the race.
“If you’re asking me if I want money from national Democrats, yes, I’d love some,” Dill said. “But without it, I’m still planning on winning — and I think I can win.”