Will The Last Republican In New England Please Turn Out The Lights?

Another part of the country that was once a Republican stronghold is now almost completely blue.

The last Republican Member of the House of Representatives from New England has been defeated:

Jared Golden, a Marine Corps veteran and Democratic state lawmaker in Maine, defeated New England’s lone House Republican, Bruce Poliquin, on Thursday, just two days after Mr. Poliquin filed a lawsuit to stop the counting of votes under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.

Mr. Poliquin’s defeat in Maine’s Second Congressional District added to a swell of bad news for northeastern Republicans, who suffered heavy losses on Election Day, and gave Democrats another Republican seat in their takeover of the House.

And it added an intriguing new angle to the nation’s ferment over voting rules and options when Mr. Poliquin, the candidate who was the first choice of more voters, lost the race to Mr. Golden, who won on the basis of being the second or third choice of voters who initially chose two independent candidates who together got 8 percent of the vote.

A spokeswoman for the Maine secretary of state’s office said the results remained unofficial pending certification by Nov. 26. But, if certified, the results would make Mr. Golden the winner of a four-candidate race in which Mr. Poliquin received 2,632 more first-choice votes but failed to reach the 50 percent needed to win.

Instead, Mr. Golden was declared the winner Thursday with 50.53 percent of the vote — or by 2,905 votes — once the second and third choices of voters who originally chose the two lagging candidates were added.

The district covers a majority of the state’s land area, much of it rural and densely forested.


The Second District was once a Democratic stronghold that Mr. Poliquin, a former state treasurer, turned red in 2014, with a message that his background in finance would make him a job creator. Democrats had been itching to retake the seat ever since.

Democrats placed their hopes this year on Mr. Golden, 36, who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked for Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, before serving in the Maine House of Representatives as a Democrat.

But Maine’s political culture is famously independent minded, and ranked-choice voting complicated the strategy efforts of both parties.

Mr. Golden’s campaign focused on kitchen-table issues with a distinctly left-wing approach and enacting stronger labor laws.

New England was long welcoming to the Republican Party’s moderate wing, but Mr. Poliquin’s loss leaves the region with just a handful of high-ranking Republican officials, including Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, both moderates increasingly out of step with the national party, and Ms. Collins.

Mr. Poliquin’s defeat also adds to the grim toll inflicted upon Republican representatives in the Northeast, where the party suffered widespread losses in New York and New Jersey driven in large part by voter hostility toward President Trump, especially in highly educated urban and suburban areas.

As things stand, the only elected Republican elected at the Federal level from New England is Maine Senator Susan Collins, who seems likely to face a serious challenge in 2020 due to her decision to support the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Additionally, I suppose it’s worth noting that Republicans do manage to get elected to the state legislatures, although they are mostly in the minority throughout the region and that there are currently three Republican Governors in New England, Paul LePage in Maine (who will be replaced by a Democrat in January), Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, who won re-election on Election Day, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, who also won re-election on November 6th. Beyond these exceptions, though, New England is very much a Democratic lake and, thanks to the losses suffered at the Congressional level, nearly an entirely blue lake at the Federal level.

This is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of them being the fact that it wasn’t all that long ago that New England was part of the Republican heartland. While it wasn’t exactly the birthplace of Republican Presidents, it did give us several national politicians of note such as John Chafee from Rhode Island and, of course, the Bush family, whose political patriarch was Prescott Bush, the father of one American President and grandfather of another who served as Senator from Connecticut for more than a decade. Additionally, the region gave us Calvin Coolidge, who was Vice-President under Warren G. Harding and became President when Harding died during a trip to the West Coast. Coolidge would go on to be elected President in his own right in 1924 at the height of the ‘Roaring 20s.’Additionally, for decades the Congressional delegations of the New England states were dominated by Republicans.

That’s not true anymore. As the GOP’s focus has shifted to the south, the party has not only become more conservative but it has also come far less welcoming to the kind of moderate Republican that the region is still known for today. As with New Jersey and California, it’s possible that the GOP will make up for these losses at some point, but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time to bounce back from this.


FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Afghanistan War, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Baker of MA may be a Republican…but he’s in favor of LGBT rights and abortion rights. MA has some pretty strict, and very effective, gun laws* that were put into place under Deval Patrick…and Baker said during the campaign that he would have signed them.
    Today’s Republicans are both socially and fiscally radical. Massive deficits in a time of economic expansion, ripping kids from their mothers arms, and taking away peoples rights.
    Baker is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and enjoys a 70% approval rating. If Republicans were anything like that, IRL, I’d be on board in a heartbeat.

    *Caveat: MA’s guns laws are good, but are also helped by being surrounded by states with good laws. Places like Chicago suffer from surrounding states with piss poor gun laws.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    From a semantics standpoint, I’ve always been confused as to why New York and New Jersey–two of three states with “New” in their title followed by a place in “England”–are not part of “New England.”

  3. Jen says:

    there are currently three Republican Governors in New England

    New Hampshire’s governor is also a Republican, Chris Sununu, who just won reelection. We, like VT, have a governor’s race every two years. I’ll also note that the first congressional district in NH is very competitive and has flipped back-and-forth between R and D with considerable frequency.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    and, of course, the Bush family,

    No no nooo Doug. The Bushes are all Texans, GHW Bush said so in his first Congressional race!

    (or so I’ve read, can not verify if it is actually true)
    (but the snark stands)

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I have always considered upstate NY to be a part of New England. That’s mostly because of geography and climate as opposed to any social cohesion though.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    Jesus…as a New Englander, native Vermonter, and student of the Revolution, I can tell you…that’s a fvcking can of worms.

  7. CSK says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    New York started out Dutch. Stuyvesant…Van Rennselaer…Roosevelt
    New England started out English. Winthrop…Saltonstall

  8. MarkedMan says:

    As I said in another thread, I think this shift to Dems in the Northeast and Pacific Coast has more to do with basic governance than Trump (although Trump probably accelerated the slide to irrelevancy). When I lived in upstate NY in th 80’s the Republican model was Nelson Rockerfeller: tough but not an a**hole, focused on economic issues but not a patsy for big business, wary of over regulation but also aware of the long term effects of treating your environment as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge cesspool (see Love Canal and Hooker Chemical). Years later when I returned to a different part of of New York, I realized the modern Republican Party was now perfectly represented by the fat 50 year old man-boys I saw running through yards at night, giggling and desperately holding up their dad jeans as they pulled up Hillary for Senator signs and ran them back to their he-man wannabe pick ups.

    You elect losers like that if all you care about is owning the libs. Not if you want school busses that work and teachers that are qualified.

    For the past two centuries the Trump states have scored last in education, life expectancy, infant mortality and on and on because a disturbing portion of the citizenry couldn’t care less about schools (except those high school football teams!) the environment, or the medical system. They are the classic examples of people who would shoot holes in the bottom of the life boat because they can’t stand seeing the other guy dry. It’s a vicious cycle too, because people who can’t take it anymore move to a blue state.

  9. Guarneri says:

    Democrats, the party of monied interests.

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    …people who would shoot holes in the bottom of the life boat because they can’t stand seeing the other guy dry.

    The Scorpion and the Frog
    A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the
    scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The
    frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion
    says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”
    The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,
    the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of
    paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,
    but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”
    Replies the scorpion: “Its my nature…”

  11. Kylopod says:

    Maine has some peculiar qualities that have somewhat halted the leftward slide that has taken place in the rest of New England. The 2nd district swung dramatically toward Republicans in 2014 and 2016. And the state’s overall electorate seems to have a taste for Democratic-leaning independents, such as Senator Angus King. Governor Paul LePage, a far-right loon, won twice with less than 50% while an independent split the Democratic vote. That’s why Jared Golden’s victory through the new IRV system is so significant. Poliquin won a slight plurality in the first round, but after the second and third choices of the independent candidates were tabulated, Golden came out with a majority. (Unfortunately the new system is not being applied to governor’s races, but it is notable that Janet Mills this year became the state’s first gubernatorial candidate to win an outright majority in 20 years, and the first non-incumbent to do so in over 50 years.) IRV greatly reduces, if not eliminates, the spoiler effect of third party candidates, thus removing an institutional roadblock that has kept the state’s Democratic Party from achieving more power in relation to its popularity.

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: I’d say it’s a rural vs. urban split except that all the farmers I’ve known have been very pragmatic, realistic, and not at all like the chip-on-the-shoulder doofuses that the Republican party now seems to be made up of. What’s happening up in Upstate New York is the same people are getting elected–it’s just that they’ve moved from being Rockefeller Republicans to Red Tory Democrats.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Guarneri: The Koch brothers, the Mercers, the Adelsons, the Friess’, are all real proud of you.

  14. just nutha says:

    @Guarneri: Says the self-professed “moneyed interest” who advocates voting Republican. Wa!

  15. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Jersey is part of the UK. However, it is not part of England.

    “And even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can’t say. People just liked it better that way. So take me back to Constantinople. Now it’s Instanbul, not Constantinople. Etc. Etc. Etc. ;)” But, in all seriousness, New York was *the* Loyalist stronghold during the Revolutionary War, while New England was… not.

  16. PJ says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Jersey is part of the UK.

    Actually, it isn’t, it’s a Crown dependency. 🙂

    The Crown dependencies (French: Dépendances de la Couronne, Manx: Croghaneyn-crooin) are three island territories off the coast of Great Britain that are self-governing possessions of the Crown: the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Isle of Man. They do not form part of either the United Kingdom or the British Overseas Territories.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    a message that his background in finance would make him a job creator.

    That’s funny.