Shades of Landslide Lyndon

In Maine, the discovery of 21 ballots that could change the victor in a state senate race is resurrecting the ghost of Lyndon Johnson’s highly suspicious victory that catapulted him into the Senate and propelled him to national prominence.

In an incident that should be part of any history of his presidency, a missing ballot box with over 200 new votes from a town in south Texas in the 1948 Senate race swung the victory to Lyndon Johnson. One hundred percent of the votes were for LBJ, and voters signed in on the summary sheet in alphabetical order, all with the same handwriting. LBJ won by 87 votes over Coke Stevenson.

Now, look at the new votes from Long Island, Maine. The Portland Press-Herald reports:

At the end of the night of Nov. 4, the vote tally in the race between Republican Cathy Manchester of Gray and Democrat Cathy Breen of Falmouth showed Breen winning the seat by 32 votes, 10,930 to 10,898. However, during a recount, 21 uncounted ballots, all cast for Manchester, were discovered in the ballot box from the small town of Long Island. At the end of the recount, Manchester was ahead by 11 votes, 10,927 to 10,916.

The Maine Democratic Party refused to sign off on the recount, which under the state constitution sends the decision to the Maine Senate, where Republicans now hold the majority. . Republican Michael Thibodeau, the incoming Senate president, will now appoint the special committee, which will make a recommendation to the full Senate on who to seat, Breen or Manchester.

Democrats are asking for the committee to conduct a full investigation, and a party attorney said this week that it is considering whether to take the matter to court. Bill Logan, an attorney for the Republican Party, said it is unlikely an investigation would make the situation any clearer, given that the ballots are virtually untraceable.

Republicans took control of the Maine Senate in the 2014 midterms, even without this disputed seat, and of course Republican Governor Paul LePage won. Dems held the state house, but lost seats. Maine may be less of a blue state than some thought.

The Press-Herald wants an investigation, but notes:

That could all be explained by any number of honest mistakes. Or, far less likely, it could be nefarious.


Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat who oversaw the recount, has declined to initiate an investigation and deferred to the incoming Republican-controlled committee, which will have broad discretion as it evaluates the recount results and makes a recommendation to the full Senate on who won the election. In addition to Long Island, the District 25 seat represents Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Gray, Chebeague Island and part of Westbrook

Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who is expected to be the next Senate president and will appoint the special committee, told the Portland Press Herald this week that he has yet to see any evidence of ballot irregularities.

“It’s unfortunate that folks were disappointed with the outcome of the recount and are unwilling to accept the result,” Thibodeau said. “There’s no question that Cathy Manchester has more votes than Cathy Breen based on that recount.”

In any event, no matter how suspicious you might be over this race, it is far less suspicious than the race that launched Lyndon Johnson’s national prominence.