Political newcomer wins GOP primary in key Maine congressional district

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Political newcomer Ronald Russell was projected to win the Republican primary for Maine’s 1st congressional district as of late Tuesday.

Russell defeated fellow first-time candidate Andrew Piantidosi in the contest and will face longtime Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree in the general election. 

He made his military service a hallmark of his campaign, describing his father’s time serving as a World War II artilleryman who convinced a young Russell to apply to West Point military academy in New York State.

Russell went on to serve as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army beginning in 1976.

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While Russell’s state hugs the northern border, the candidate told local outlet WMTW that illegal immigration on the southern border will be an important issue for him if elected in November.

“The way to stop it is to stop the incentives for illegal immigration. The amount of money that we are providing housing, free housing for them until they get on their feet, which is a couple of years here in Maine, salaries, for all intents and purposes, money to help them subsist, those are all incentives to have them break the law and come across illegally. Those need to go away as well,” he told the outlet.

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After retiring from the military in 2006, Russell began working for a defense contractor before starting his own business that his campaign website said grew to 150 employees.

Maine’s 1st Congressional District, while much smaller than its counterpart, contains most of the state’s population centers. It largely hugs the seacoast and includes the cities of Portland and Brunswick, and meets New Hampshire not far from Portsmouth.

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Following 2021 census-related redistricting, the Cook Political Report placed the 1st District’s partisan voting index at D+9, indicating a substantial advantage for Pingree in the general election.

Pingree has been successful in her recent reelection bids, though she suffered a 2002 loss when she challenged popular centrist Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The last Republican to represent the seat, former Rep. Jim Longley, Jr., was ousted in the 1996 election.

 

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