November 20, 2012

Republican Fossel falls in third recount over 10 years; Democrat Johnson named winner of Senate District 20

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- For the third time in 10 years, Les Fossel faced a recount in a Senate race.

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Les Fossel

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Christopher Johnson

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And, for the third time, he came up short.

Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville, defeated Fossel, a Republican House member from Alna, 10,943 to 10,772, according to results of a recount conducted Tuesday by the Department of the Secretary of State.

In another local race, Democrat Catherine Nadeau of Winslow defeated incumbent Rep. Susan Morissette, R-Winslow, for House District 54. Following a recount Tuesday night, Nadeau earned 2,248 votes and Morissette had 2,196, according to the recount results.

Fossel blamed dirty politics for his loss, and said both parties have been guilty of it over the last decade.

"I'm going to figure out a way to punish people who do dirty campaigning," he said.

Johnson, who won the seat in a February special election and was re-elected earlier this month to a two-year term, said he will work to represent all the voters of the district, even those who did not support him.

"We've really got a lot to figure out on tackling the economy and jobs," he said. "We need to be sure to take measured steps that have a lot of support."

Senate District 20 covers 19 towns in Lincoln County, the Kennebec County town of Windsor and the Knox County towns of Friendship and Washington.

Fossel, who owns a home restoration business, won election to the Maine House of Representatives in 2008 and 2010. But in 2002, 2004, and again this year, his attempt to win a seat in the Maine Senate failed by margins close enough to warrant a recount.

The most dramatic of Fossel's recounts came in 2002, when the outcome of his race against Democrat Christopher Hall of Bristol determined the balance of power in the Senate. Following a recount, Hall led by nine votes with 44 ballots yet to be counted. Because he was the apparent winner when the new Legislature was sworn-in, he was provisionally seated, which gave the Democrats an 18-17 majority. That allowed the Democrats to appoint the members of a bipartisan panel to review the ballots.

The panel voted unanimously that Hall defeated Fossel by seven votes, 8,911 to 8,904.

Two years later, Fossel again tried his hand at running for the Senate, but found himself in a tie with fellow Republican Dana Dow following the June primary. Four disputed ballots went to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for review, and the court ruled Dow the winner after awarding him three of the four votes.

Fossel broke the streak in 2008, when he won election to the Maine House by a comfortable 250 vote margin, and won re-election in 2010 by more than 1,500 votes.

His decision to try again for the Senate came earlier this year after Johnson defeated Dow in a February special election. The upset win by Johnson -- a political unknown -- prompted Democrats to crow that they won a Republican-leaning district over Dow, a well-known local businessman.

So Fossel stepped up again, with election night totals showing Johnson leading 10,880 to 10,746. After the recount, Johnson was declared the winner by 171 votes.

"That sort of hard-fought race is a lot of work," Johnson said.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com

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Catherine Nadeau

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Susan Morissette

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