FALMOUTH — It was probably inevitable.
Two candidates, both women, both named Cathy, in Senate District 25.
And so far, both have won and both have lost.
Unofficial results of the Nov. 4 election showed Democrat Catherine Breen of Falmouth won by seven votes after all precincts had reported.
Early the next day, Republican Cathleen Manchester of Gray said she would not seek a recount and was content with the outcome. Updated unofficial results that day showed Breen with a 32-vote lead, 10,930 to 10,898.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to waste the state’s resources on (a recount),” Manchester said Nov. 5.
She changed her mind later that day after discussions with her staff and voters. The recount was scheduled for Nov. 18, two weeks after Election Day.
According to the secretary of state’s office, a bundle of 25 votes from Long Island that had not been counted on Election Night were discovered, and 21 of those votes went to Manchester. Manchester won the recount, by an 11-vote margin, 10,927 to 10,916.
The Nov. 4 results indicated 21,828 votes had been cast, while the Nov. 18 recount showed 21,843.
“I am thrilled with the results,” Manchester said Nov. 19. “I am very grateful to the people in our district, leaders in the state house who worked so diligently. I’m indebted to Cathy Breen and am grateful for the wonderful race that she ran. I am looking forward to serving state of Maine, and will do my absolute best to serve the people of Maine to the best of my ability.”
So less than two weeks after initially saying she was content with the results and would not seek a recount, Manchester was declared the winner in the district that includes Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook.
Breen is challenging the outcome.
“It’s been a very close election, and now there’s a recount with missing ballots and disputed ballots and uncounted ballots that have suddenly appeared,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “I’m requesting that the results be officially reviewed. This has been a real roller-coaster, but I think it’s really important for the integrity of the process to be validated.”
Kate Knox, an attorney for the Maine Democratic Party, said in a press release the recount “showed serious and significant inconsistencies,” including “10 ballots that were cast on Election Day, but not accounted for at the recount.”
Four ballots are missing from Cumberland, and six from Westbrook, according to the Democrats.
However, according to the secretary of state’s office, there are nine ballots being disputed and six unaccounted for as of Nov. 21. Initially there had been seven unaccounted votes, but one has since been found.
Rachel Irwin, communications director for the Democratic Party, said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap had since confirmed there are 10 missing votes. Representatives from Dunlap’s office could not be reached to confirm that on Nov. 24.
A ballot can be disputed if a lawyer for either candidate says there is an unclear mark on the ballot, or if they say the voter’s intention is unclear. For example, according to the secretary of state’s office, one of the disputed ballots had the oval next to one of the candidate’s names filled in, but this voter then circled the other candidate’s name.
Because Breen is challenging, the decision will go to the state Senate. A committee appointed by presumptive Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, will examine the results. Breen will be provisionally seated until the Senate makes a final decision.
The Senate could ultimately decide to seat either Breen or Manchester, or request a second recount. A second recount could have occurred on Nov. 18, if both parties agree, but Irwin said the attorney for the Republican Party objected, which led to the Democrats refusing to sign off on the results.
“The door should be open to go back in and ensure we have a thorough look at where the inconsistencies are,” she said.
Irwin said Breen and the party are working with the secretary of state’s office to figure out the next steps, but that the goal is to ensure the process is “fair and accurate” and to have “every vote counted and very voice heard.”
Manchester, meanwhile, said she is “very confident” she will remain the winner. She said everything would be decided by Dec. 3, when the Legislature convenes, but she hopes it will be resolved sooner.