1978 United States Senate election in Maine

← 1972 November 7, 1978 1984 →
Senator William Cohen (R-ME).jpg
Wm D Hathaway Senate.jpg
Hayes Gahagan 2.jpg
Nominee William Cohen William Hathaway Hayes Gahagan
Party Republican Democratic Independent
Popular vote 212,294 127,327 27,824
Percentage 56.59% 33.94% 7.42%

1978 United States Senate election in Maine results map by county.svg
County results
Cohen:      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%

U.S. senator before election

William Hathaway

Elected U.S. Senator

William Cohen

The 1978 United States Senate election in Maine was held on November 7, 1978. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator William Hathaway ran for re-election to a second term, but was defeated by William Cohen, the Republican U.S. Representative from Maine's 2nd congressional district.

No incumbent Senator has lost by such a large margin since Hathaway's 22.65-point loss, though James Abdnor in 1980, John Boozman in 2010, and Tommy Tuberville in 2020 all received larger percentages of the vote against incumbent Senators.


Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 in an upset victory against incumbent Margaret Chase Smith, Hathaway had established himself as a very liberal senator, being ranked an average of 92 percent more liberal than the Senate as a whole during his first term.[1] This put him at risk, considering the conservative nature of Maine before the 1990s.[2] Meanwhile, young former state senator Hayes Gahagan launched an independent campaign, running well to the right of Cohen.[3] Other candidates to join the race were independent John J. Jannace and perennial candidate Plato Truman.[4]

Republican primary


Republican Senate primary results: June 13, 1978[5] Year Candidate Votes % 1978 William Cohen 69,824 100

Democratic primary


Democratic Senate primary results: June 13, 1978[6] Year Candidate Votes % Candidate Votes % 1978 William D. Hathaway (inc.) 48,453 99.83 Write-In 84 0.17

General election



During the campaign, all candidates hit the campaign trail hard, with Hathaway receiving significant support from Jimmy Carter, Edmund Muskie, Ted Kennedy, and other national Democrats.[7] The biggest surprise, however, came from Hayes Gahagan. Shortly before election day, he held a press conference where he announced that "unknown, subversive agents" had been altering his campaign photos by implanting subliminal images of female genitalia in his hairline.[8]


United States Senate election in Maine, 1978[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican William Cohen 212,294 56.59% +9.83%
Democratic William Hathaway (incumbent) 127,327 33.94% -19.29%
Independent Hayes E. Gahagan 27,824 7.42%
Independent John J. Jannace 5,553 1.48%
Independent Plato Truman 2,116 0.56%
Majority 84,967 22.65% +16.19%
Turnout 375,114
Republican gain from Democratic Swing

See also


  1. ^ "HATHAWAY, William Dodd (1924-2013)". VoteView. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  2. ^ "Maine". 270towin. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  3. ^ "The Bangor Daily News from Bangor, Maine · 30". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  4. ^ "ME US Senate". OurCampaigns. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  5. ^ "ME US Senate - R Primary", OurCampaigns, retrieved August 22, 2022
  6. ^ "ME US Senate - D Primary", OurCampaigns, retrieved August 22, 2022
  7. ^ "Bill Hathaway, U.S. senator from Maine, dies at 89", The Press Herald, retrieved August 22, 2022
  8. ^ "Politics & Other Mistakes: No trophies", Daily Bulldog, retrieved August 22, 2022
  9. ^ "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 1978" (PDF). Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Retrieved July 2, 2014.