Mainers have a lot to contemplate on Election Day. On a traditional ballot, voters will be choosing among three candidates for governor to replace the combative Republican Gov. Paul LePage. On a separate ballot, ranked-choice voting will make its national debut in races for U.S. House and Senate. Also on the ballot is a question that would make Maine the first state to provide homecare for all elderly and disabled residents, regardless of ability to pay. Voters also will decide four bond proposals.
Here are some key races:
BLAINE HOUSE TO GET NEW OCCUPANT
Voters are deciding between Republican businessman Shawn Moody, Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills and independent state treasurer Terry Hayes.
The candidates credit LePage for steadying finances in this aging, rural state. They also agree the governor's office needs a change of tone after LePage's combative style.
Outside groups have funded negative attack ads, but the candidates themselves have been largely civil.
Moody, who founded a chain of auto body collision centers and ran for governor as an independent in 2010, has portrayed himself as an "outsider businessman" who will continue LePage's legacy. He got LePage's daughter, wife and political consultant on board, and the governor himself donated to Moody's run.
Mills, meanwhile, is focusing on grants, low-interest loans and broadband investments encouraging small businesses and people to live in Maine and work remotely. She's promised an "open doors" administration and says she'll protect the environment and LGBTQ and reproductive rights while welcoming new Mainers.
Hayes is focused on eliminating gridlock in Augusta, and supporting local programs that are working. She is running as a publicly funded candidate, and says she's not beholden to special interests.
A NEW WAY OF VOTING
Ranked-choice voting is facing its biggest national test as the system is used for federal elections for the first time. The new system could mean delays of a week or more in declaring winners.
The system lets voters in the U.S. House and Senate races to rank all candidates from first to last on the ballot. A candidate with a majority of first-place votes is the winner.
If there's no majority winner, ballots will be shipped to Augusta late in the week for additional rounds of tallies in which last-place candidates are eliminated and second-place votes reallocated to the remaining field. The process is repeated until there's a majority winner.
The system is used in about a dozen municipalities across the country but Maine is the only place where it's used in statewide races, thanks to a referendum in 2016.
Ranked-choice voting is not being used in elections for governor or the Legislature because of concerns that the system runs afoul of the Maine Constitution. Because of this, there will be separate federal and state ballots for voters on Election Day.
MAINE'S MOST EXPENSIVE RACE
Millions have poured into the large, rural 2nd Congressional District as Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin faces a stiff challenge from Democratic state lawmaker Jared Golden. The race is one of the most competitive U.S. House races and has become the most expensive political race in Maine history.
Golden, a former Marine, has married support for the 2nd Amendment with a populist economic message railing against Trump's signature tax cut as giveaways to the wealthy and efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act.
Poliquin has attempted to dismiss Golden as a "young radical with a socialist agenda." He said Maine's economy is improving, with low unemployment, thanks to GOP efforts to lower tax rates for small businesses and families, cut red tape and fight bad trade deals.
In the 1st District, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree is battling independent state lawmaker Marty Grohman and Republican Mark Holbrook. In the Senate race, Independent incumbent Angus King is being challenged by Republican Eric Brakey and Democrat Zak Ringelstein.
UNIVERSAL HOME CARE
The most hotly contested referendum would provide universal home care for seniors and people with disabilities.
An estimated 27,000 Mainers needing help with daily living could receive assistance from stipends for family caregivers to funding for professional nursing, home health aides, home repair, rent subsidies and transportation.
But there is criticism of the way it's funded. LePage, the current governor, and all three gubernatorial candidates are opposed, saying the proposal is unfair and expensive.
Meanwhile, four bond questions would authorize $200 million in state borrowing altogether.
The proposed bonds include $30 million to fund wastewater infrastructure projects and $106 million for roads and bridges. Remaining bonds would OK $64 million for facility upgrades for Maine's public universities and community colleges.
National Democratic groups hoping to gain influence over 2020 redistricting are spending heavily to flip Maine's state Senate and gain more seats in the Maine House.
Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping support for President Trump in inland Maine counties will help conservatives maintain 18-17 control of the state Senate.
Democrats have 73 seats in the 151-seat House, while Republicans have 70. Several lawmakers left their party in the last year, and roughly two dozen independent and third-party candidates are running for legislative office.
The next Legislature will make key decisions on issues such as voter-approved legalization of marijuana retail sales and the opioid crisis. Legislative gridlock under the LePage administration fueled a 2017 three-day state government shutdown and delayed state action on big issues such as the opioid crisis.