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Republicans notch surprise win in Maine House special election after Dem resigns seat over forgery charges
Composite screenshot of Abden Simmons for Maine House YouTube video and Maine government website

Republicans notch surprise win in Maine House special election after Dem resigns seat over forgery charges

Republicans in Maine scored a surprising victory this week after their candidate won a special election for the state House in a traditionally blue district.

On Tuesday night, Republican Abden Simmons, who formerly represented another district in the Maine House from 2016 until 2018, defeated Democrat Wendy Pieh, who also formerly served in the state House, 52% to 48% for a special election for state district 45. While four percentage points might represent a comfortable margin in some federal elections, in this case, it meant the difference of just 121 votes. Simmons earned 1,438 to Pieh's 1,317.

The Republican pickup will not affect the chamber too drastically, as Democrats still hold at least a 13-seat majority there. They also control the state Senate and the governor's mansion, currently occupied by Gov. Janet Mills. Still, the Republican Party is celebrating this modest victory since district 45, which covers some areas along the state's mid-Atlantic coast, has not voted for a Republican for president in more than two decades, and a neighboring district hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George H. W. Bush in 1988.

"This is massive news for Maine," said Joel Stetkis, the state's party chairman. "[Simmons'] deep community roots and staunch advocacy for this district's way of life clearly resonated with voters."

Last November, Democrat Clinton Collamore won the election for the 45th state district by nearly 300 votes and assumed office a month later. However, about a week after he was sworn in, Collamore was accused of forging approximately 30 signatures to qualify for the ballot. He was subsequently charged with 20 counts related to forgery and violating the Maine Clean Elections Act, and he resigned his House seat on February 16.

Collamore initially pled not guilty to the charges, but he later reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. On Monday, the day before Simmons' upset win, Collamore pled guilty to 11 misdemeanors, including unsworn falsification and one count of criminal violation of the Maine Clean Election Act. The charges of aggravated forgery were dropped in the agreement.

Collamore was sentenced to serve 72 hours in jail, which he will do sometime this fall, and to perform 100 hours of community service. He had already returned the one-month salary he earned during his brief time in office as well as up to $15,000 in funding that he had received from the state for the Maine Clean Elections Act.

During the hearing on Monday, Collamore insisted that he never intended to defraud anyone and claimed that the issue related to inappropriately filed or otherwise mismanaged "paperwork." "I’m human," he told the court. "I made a mistake, and I’m very sorry." He told reporters later that he plans to leave the Democrat Party now that the case against him has concluded.

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