Maine 2nd District
The 2nd District of Maine is heavily forested, rough-hewn, and enormous. It covers the northern three-quarters of the state, and is the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River, larger than the states of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts combined. The population is not evenly distributed. The district dips south to include the heavily Democratic mill town of Lewiston and also includes Eastport. At Belfast on Penobscot Bay, art galleries and boutiques have replaced fish-processing plants. There are several different Maines represented here: The bays of coastal Maine, with their small fishing towns; the potato fields of far northern Aroostook County (6,543 square miles in size); and the mill towns on the fast-running streams of western Maine. Some valleys have more moose than people. This was one of America’s frontiers in the 1850s, when Bangor, on the Penobscot River, was the lumber capital of the world. Today, tiny Bangor is the second-largest city in the district after Lewiston.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This part of Maine has had its economic troubles, losing 22,000 jobs to neighboring Canada and other foreign markets after the 1993 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Potato production is only half of what it was in 1980. A once-thriving sardine-canning business is virtually gone. Logging, long the largest industry in Maine, has suffered job cutbacks as big paper companies sell off acreage and shut down mills. A movement to set aside yet more acerage in a proposed North Maine Woods National Park, which would be larger than the Yellowstone and Yosemite parks combined, has sparked protests. Bumper stickers around the state read: “If you don’t like cutting trees, try using plastic toilet paper.” From 1998 to 2007, the Bangor area lost 3,700 manufacturing jobs. But there are also signs of life. Loring Air Force Base was closed in 1994, but new businesses, from aircraft repair to telemarketing, have replaced its civilian jobs and then some. And some long-standing industries are still humming. Washington County’s sandy soil plains produce more than 90% of the nation’s wild blueberry crop. The forest-products industry has explored new paper products and new ideas, such as turning sawdust into wood pellets for home heating. Politically, the district is iconoclastic and permanently enamored of neither major political party. This was Ross Perot’s strongest congressional district in the United States in 1992 and 1996. Al Gore narrowly carried the 2nd in 2000 and John Kerry did only slightly better in 2004. Barack Obama won here, but by a closer margin than in Maine’s other district, the 1st.