Lacking contests, June 12 primary to be a formality



Part 1 of 2: The Democrats

ELLSWORTH — As reliable as mud season, election time is back.

This year, the race for House of Representatives in Hancock County will include 16 candidates vying for eight district seats. And although the June 12 primaries will largely be a formality (there are no contested primaries in either party) a field of diverse candidates should make the exercise interesting.

The Ellsworth and Trenton race (District 132) may be the county’s least lively. Republican Mark Remick has no primary challenger and Democrat Chris Keefe plans to withdraw his name after the primary elections in June. The District 132 seat is being vacated by Louie Luchini, who is in a primary for state Senate.

Among the Democrats registered to run are two women lobstermen, several educators, a politician and a former millworker.

The state may be footing the bill for six House bids in Hancock County this season, if candidates requesting Clean Election funding collect the required 60 qualifying contributions of $5 each by April 20.

Of the seven Democratic candidates registered with the Maine Ethics Commission (the body that enforces Maine’s campaign finance laws), six are seeking Clean Election funding. Genevieve McDonald, a Democratic candidate from Stonington, is the lone Democrat running a traditionally financed campaign.

Chris Keefe of Ellsworth has yet to file papers with the commission.

Candidates running “clean” for the House of Representatives are eligible for $500 in state funds for an uncontested primary and $2,525 in a contested race; $1,525 for an uncontested general election and $5,075 in a contested one. Those who collect additional qualifying contributions are eligible for additional funds, and all may collect up to $1,000 in “seed money” to jumpstart their campaigns. Unspent money must be returned to the Maine Clean Elections Fund. Clean Election candidates are forbidden from participating in political action committees (PACs) or accepting outside funds apart from seed money.

Traditionally financed candidates have no limits on how much money they may raise, but individual contributions are capped at a total of $800 for party candidates (this includes the primary and general elections). Enrolled candidates may accept a total of $400 per contribution.

All Republican candidates who have registered with the Maine Ethics Commission are running traditionally financed campaigns. Mark Remick said he has not yet decided whether he will seek state funding, and Philip Brady of Stonington has not yet filed papers with the commission.

The winner in each district will be paid a state salary: $24,430 for the two-year period in which he or she serves, receiving $14,272 for the first regular session (which lasts around six months) and $10,158 for the second regular session (around four months). Lawmakers receive health care benefits and pay for special sessions and committee meetings, $70 per night for lodging and meals, and reimbursement for mileage. Some worry the low pay deters many from running.

“You don’t do this for the money,” Remick noted.

There are eight district seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs in Hancock County. The following are registered to run as Democrats in 2018:

District 130 — Bucksport and Orrington: Incumbent Richard Campbell will face Democratic challenger Michael Reynolds.

Reynolds was born in Belfast. He served two years in the Marines and has spent the past 14 years as finance director of the Waldo County YMCA, a position from which he’ll be retiring this year. An unaffiliated voter for most of his life, Reynolds said Bernie Sanders inspired him to become a Democrat.

“Working together we will prove that Maine is a place where we create good-paying jobs, protect the environment, provide racial and social justice and have affordable and accessible health care for all Maine people,” Reynolds said.

District 131 — Dedham, Orland, Otis, Penobscot, Prospect, Stockton Springs and Verona Island: Democrat Nathalie Arruda will face incumbent Karl Ward in the General Election.

Arruda has a background in early childhood development and has volunteered for the Hancock County Democratic Committee. She was an organizer for the Orland Democratic Committee and a delegate to the state Democratic convention. In an email, Arruda said she supports tax incentives “to encourage growth of clean, innovative industries that give back to the community and pay workers a wage they can actually live on.

“We also need a community of people with homes and vehicles in good repair, access to nutritious food and affordable health care, adequate funding for education, support for children and families, strong civil rights, and upgrades to infrastructure such as roads and broadband internet.”

District 132 — Ellsworth and Trenton: This district will likely see changes come June, as Chris Keefe, the Democrat registered to run for the seat, plans to withdraw his name from consideration after the primary. Keefe declined to provide a statement.

District 133 — Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Sedgwick and Surry: Democrat Sarah Pebworth of Blue Hill will face Republican Nancy Colwell.

Pebworth has a background in education. She owned and operated the Blue Hill Inn for nine years. In a press release, Pebworth said she wants to focus on the opioid crisis, and “working to improve resources for our youth, through funding for initiatives such as home visits for pregnant women and for the Backpack Program, sending healthy food home with students.”

She also cited environmental legislation “such as protecting Maine’s fisheries from the impact of offshore energy exploration and drilling and the ban on single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers,” as a priority, along with campaigning for a “livable wage, affordable healthcare, fiscal responsibility and the growth of small businesses,” and addressing gun control “while preserving the rights of law-abiding adults to own and use guns.”

District 134 — Cranberry Isles, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, North Haven, Southwest Harbor, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont and Vinalhaven, Marshall Island Township: Republican Philip Brady will face Democrat Genevieve McDonald.

McDonald, a lobsterman and substitute teacher, is also a Downeast Region representative on the Maine Lobster Advisory Council. She wrote in a press release that she wants to fight for recognition of her region as “the source of a significant revenue generating natural resource in the state.” Her key issues, McDonald wrote, are “successfully managing Maine’s marine resources, preserving our working waterfront and shoreline access, building Maine’s rural economy and assuring the best possible education for our children. Other issues I am concerned about include opiate addiction and coordinating outreach services for at-risk youth.”

District 135 Bar Harbor, Lamoine and Mount Desert: Incumbent Brian Hubbell, a Democrat, will seek a fourth term. He will face Republican Maurice Joseph Marshall in the General Election.

Hubbell has served on the Education Committee, chaired the Legislature’s Education Funding Commission and worked on state policy regarding proficiency-based learning. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and has worked to increase state support through bonds for scientific research and regional development. Hubbell writes in a press release that for a fourth term, he would “focus on retaining smart, young Mainers through sustainable economic development, continuing to improve public and postsecondary education, and building an environmentally responsible state energy policy.”

District 136 — Gouldsboro, Hancock, Mariaville, Osborn, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor, East Hancock and Fletchers Landing Township: Republican William “Billy Bob” Faulkingham will face Democrat Kylie Bragdon in the General Election.

Bragdon is a former mathematics teacher pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership focusing on improving Maine’s education system for those pursuing careers in commercial fishing.

In a statement, Bragdon said she “believes in the power of collaboration, and the possibility of creating a better tomorrow for future generations,” adding that, if elected, she would “pursue initiatives to protect current industries, while also developing new, well-paying employment opportunities.”

She also said she “is equally dedicated to preserving our natural resources, supporting the needs of the elderly and veteran populations, and improving students’ preparedness for the real world.”

District 137 — Amherst, Aurora, Beddington, Bradford, Bradley, Deblois, Eastbrook, Edinburg, Franklin, Great Pond, Greenbush, Lagrange, Northfield, Passadumkeag and Wesley, East Hancock, North Washington, Northwest Hancock and Grand Falls, Greenfield, and Summit Townships: Democrat Doug Bunker will face Republican incumbent Larry Lockman.

Bunker worked for the Verso paper mill in Bucksport for 24 years, where he was also involved in lobbying at the state and federal level.

“Although we were not always successful, I did learn that a respectful exchange of ideas is essential to effective advocacy,” Bunker said.

Bunker said he wants to focus on providing “quality jobs that provide decent wages and health and retirement benefits,” preparing students for careers in science, technology education and mathematics, making evidence-based public policy decisions, expanding health care and prescription drug coverage, and having Maine’s voice be heard on the issue of climate change.

A primer on the Republican candidates will follow next week.

What’s a placeholder?
Chris Keefe, the Democrat registered to challenge Republican Mark Remick for the House of Representatives in District 132, has filed to run as a “placeholder” candidate and is planning to withdraw after the June 12 primary. It’s uncommon, but it happens: A party needs more time after the March 15 deadline to find a candidate, so it submits a “paper” or “placeholder” candidate — somebody willing to collect the required number of signatures (25 for House candidates, 100 for the Senate) and file the paperwork, but who anticipates being replaced after the primary election. Assuming the candidate wins the primary on June 12, he or she then has until the second Monday in July (this year that date is July 9) to withdraw by filing with the Division of Elections in the Secretary of State’s Office. The division will then issue a proclamation that there is a vacancy in this district and the party will hold a caucus to find a new candidate. The replacement candidate must file with the division by the fourth Monday in July (July 23), and parties are required to give sufficient notice (generally at least a week) of a caucus before it is held. A side note: placeholder candidates are still required to register with the Maine Ethics Commission or risk fines and “increasingly insistent letters,” according to staff in the Maine Ethics Commission office. After registering with the commission, placeholder candidates can file for a reporting exemption if they do not plan to raise or spend any money.
Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Southwest Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]