The District 25 state Senate race is attracting national attention from a Republican organization seeking to elect Republican women to state-level offices.
Cathy Manchester, a real estate agent, has been named one of the top "14 in '14" by the Republican State Leadership Committee's "Right Women, Right Now" campaign.
Manchester is facing Democrat Cathy Breen for the seat that represents Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Falmouth, Gray, Long Island, Yarmouth and part of Westbrook. Maine Republicans see an opportunity to pick up the seat, since independent Richard Woodbury is not seeking re-election.
"Manchester is a top targeted pick-up opportunity for Senate Republicans to gain the three seats necessary to recapture the Majority held in 2011-2012," the group said in a short biography in a brochure about its Top 14 races.
Manchester's opponent is a community volunteer and board member of Spurwink Services. Breen previously told the Press Herald that the Maine Senate should include people with various backgrounds and experiences, so it represents broad interests and reaches optimum solutions to Maine’s educational, health care and economic challenges.
According its website, the RSLC concentrates on recruiting candidates and "providing them with research, financial support and assistance in message development and delivery."
"The RSLC has more than 100,000 donors in all 50 states. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, the RSLC invested in 42 states, breaking previous fundraising and political spending records, set in 2009-2010, with an increase in fundraising by 28 percent to $39 million and an increase in direct political spending by 35 percent to $27 million."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the RSLC has raised $20.4 million this year and spent $18.5 million. The group's biggest donors are insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield ($935,713), tobacco giant Reynolds American ($788,982) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and related entities ($496,245). Koch Industries has contributed $359,940.
However, if the RSLC is planning on making a big investment in Maine' District 25 race, it has some work to do. As of July 15, the group's Maine Political Action Committee had only $14.40 in cash on hand.
Women are expected to play a big role in the upcoming elections. In 2010, women represented 53.4 percent of registered voters in Maine but accounted for 60 percent of the electorate, according to the Maine Women’s Policy Center.
Democrats are banking on the fact that a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allows some employers to opt out of providing birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act, efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood organizations and Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage will motivate women to vote for their party's candidates.
Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping their focus on the economy and welfare reform will pull women in their direction.
I took a quick look at the Secretary of State's candidate list to see who had the edge in terms of female candidates in November. I counted a little more than 100 women running for the state House and Senate. Female Democrats outnumber their Republican opponents, 64 to 39.
Here's a quick snapshot of where women stand in terms of the gubernatorial race -- a three-way battle between Republican incumbent Gov. Paul LePage, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler, according to a June survey conducted for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Forty-eight percent of women surveyed said they planned to vote for Michaud, while 29 percent said they’d support LePage. Cutler was preferred by 17 percent.
Of the women surveyed, 31 percent said they voted for LePage in 2010 and 31 percent voted for Cutler. Fourteen percent voted for Democrat Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell.
As did men, women surveyed said jobs and the economy were the most important problems facing Maine.