Ward withdraws from District 131 race

Rep. Karl Ward

ELLSWORTH — Incumbent state Rep. Karl Ward (R-Dedham) has withdrawn his candidacy as the Republican nominee in House District 131.

Ward submitted a formal letter to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office Tuesday withdrawing his candidacy. House District 131 includes the towns of Otis, Dedham, Orland, Penobscot, Verona Island, Prospect and Stockton Springs.

Ward was first elected in 2014, defeating Democrat Veronica Magnan of Stockton Springs. He was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Dotty Caldwell of Penobscot.

He has served on the Joint Standing Committees on Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development and Taxation during his two terms in office.

Ward also is president and CEO of Brewer-based construction company Nickerson & O’Day, which is currently ranked as the third largest builder in Maine by a statewide business publication, with 60 employees and over $100 million in volume since 2015.

Ward also owns and operates Sluggers Baseball/Softball Center and Concrete Coring of Maine, also in Brewer.

Ward attributed his decision to a number of factors, including the pressures of running one of the largest building construction companies in Maine.

“Our business has tripled in size in five years,” Ward stated in a press release announcing his decision. “Work weeks have become 80 hours long. I am exhausted.”

“Doing this, I have neglected personal relationships and health and missed countless family events,” Ward stated. “For the first time, I’ve had to admit to myself that I simply can’t do it all.”

“It’s been suggested that I move to an easier committee, submit less legislation, attend fewer sessions and ‘mail it in,’” Ward stated. “I simply cannot do that. If I am to serve, I will honor my commitment to you to do my very best … or I will not serve at all. You should expect no less of your state representative.”

Ward said he endorses a “legislative mentor of mine,” Sherman Hutchins of Penobscot.

Hutchins is a former state representative, a retired building construction company owner and a nine-term selectman.

“Like myself, he believes in voting your conscience over his own, eschewing PAC, lobbyist or taxpayer campaign funding and will donate a portion of his legislative salary to the same causes I have supported with mine,” Ward said.

Ward plans to lend his full support to Hutchins during the campaign and beyond.

“I have a couple bill ideas that I think will help our region and I plan to work with Sherm to get them passed in the spring,” Ward said.

In his time in office, Ward has authored a number of bills, most notably the “Right to Try Bill,” which opened the way for potentially life-saving drugs to be used by terminally ill patients. This bill was recently mirrored in similar legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Ward also sponsored the “Cold Case Homicide Squad Bill,” which created a new department within the Maine State Police in 2015. His inspiration was the 1980 murder case of 16-year old Joyce McLain of East Millinocket. Her murderer was recently caught and tried and is currently awaiting sentencing.

In a letter being sent to constituents this week, Ward described his decision to leave the race as “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make.”

“My service to my communities has been one of the most meaningful experiences in my life,” Ward stated. “Whether it was helping to solve a constituent problem, presenting a legislative memoriam to a grieving family or seeing the benefit of donating my legislative salary to our schools, scholarships or youth programs, it has been my honor to serve you in Augusta.”

Ward said he doesn’t rule out returning to Augusta in the future.

“When things slow down or I move into semi-retirement, I would seriously consider returning to the State House to serve and represent my region … if folks would have me,” Ward said. “That’s a few years away, but I’m already thinking about it.”

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