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  • Bangor Daily News

    Progressive challenger unseats anti-abortion Democrat in Maine House primary

    By Billy Kobin,


    AUGUSTA, Maine — State Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, will lose his seat after falling to Democratic challenger Cassie Julia in Tuesday’s primary election, a race that centered around White’s anti-abortion views.

    Julia received 64 percent of votes to 37 percent for White, according to the city of Waterville’s unofficial election results.

    The race for the District 65 seat that White has held since 2018 was one of more closely watched State House primaries on Tuesday, given Planned Parenthood’s political arm in Maine made its first-ever endorsement in a state legislative primary by backing Cassie Julia, a public schools advocate who serves on the Waterville Planning Board.

    That endorsement stemmed from White, 66, a Catholic who is retired after working at the former Scott Paper mill and in Winslow, Vassalboro and China schools, opposing various abortion-rights measures in the Democratic-led Legislature, including Gov. Janet Mills’ measure last year to allow doctors to perform abortions deemed necessary after viability and a failed effort to enshrine “reproductive autonomy” rights in the Maine Constitution.

    The issue of abortion has remained a central one across the country two years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision , with various conservative-led states since passing bans or stricter limits on abortion.

    Julia, 45, who has two children, said she initially planned on running for the seat after White left office. But she launched her campaign in December after her daughter , who will vote for the first time this November after turning 18, and her daughter’s friends shared they were upset over White’s abortion votes.

    White noted his legislative experience and progressive record on issues such as labor rights, public education and protections for election workers while sharing disappointment over Planned Parenthood spending several thousands of dollars to oppose him.

    Julia thanked Waterville residents “for so vociferously voting in favor of equality and reproductive rights.”

    “I appreciate every single person and organization that showed their faith in me, and I hope I can do that justice moving forward,” Julia said.

    White said Tuesday night the “money and involvement of Planned Parenthood appears to be a deciding factor in this race.”

    “It was an honor to serve for the last six years, and I will continue to serve the people of Waterville in new ways,” White added.

    Maine voters were settling 17 contested State House primaries on Tuesday, with a dozen in the House and five in the Senate. Democrats ended this year’s legislative session with a 22-13 advantage in the Senate and a 79-68 advantage in the House.

    In other contested Democratic primaries on Tuesday:

    — Yusuf Yusuf, a former Portland School Board member, beat former Rep. Herb Adams, D-Portland, in the race to succeed House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, who is term limited in the chamber and is trying to move to the Senate;

    — Flavia DeBrito, a Waterville City Council member, beat Andrew Dent in another contested Democratic primary Tuesday for a House seat covering parts of Waterville and Winslow that Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, could not seek again due to term limits;

    — moderate Rep. Joe Perry of Bangor, easily defeated Bangor lawyer Zachary Smith; and

    — Michelle Boyer of Cape Elizabeth beat two former lawmakers, Cynthia Dill and Kim Monaghan, in a primary to replace outgoing Rep. Rebecca Millett.

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