Freshman legislators seeking re-election as primary season approaches

What’s the lineup for Hancock County in the upcoming primaries? We had a large freshman class elected in the 2018 election. Reps. Dick Campbell (R-Orrington), Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor) and Larry Lockman (R-Bradley) are termed out this year, but five other local legislators are freshmen and all five are seeking re-election.

Three are Democrats, two Republican. The Dems are Reps. Genevieve McDonald (Stonington), Sarah Pebworth (Blue Hill) and Nicole Grohoski (Ellsworth). Republicans are Billy Bob Faulkingham (Winter Harbor) and Sherm Hutchins (Penobscot).

McDonald has a primary opponent in Julie Eaton, a lobsterman and firebrand on behalf of the fishery, but McDonald is a lobsterman herself and has the advantage of a term’s experience in the Legislature, where she served on the Marine Resources Committee. She has been an informed and conscientious legislator.

The other lobsterman in the delegation, Billy Bob Faulkingham, has a general election opponent in Democrat Antonio Blasi. Faulkingham’s performance in his first term leaves him well positioned for a second, and he is likely more in tune with his Downeast district than Blasi. Sherm Hutchins and Nicole Grohoski have general election opponents and are in equally good position to rebuff the challenges. Sarah Pebworth has a clear road ahead with neither a primary nor a general election opponent.

It is the Senate races where it gets really interesting. Incumbent Democrat Louie Luchini served four terms in the House before shifting to a Senate seat in the 2018 election. He is well known as a cross-country coach for Ellsworth High School and an all-around nice guy. However, not all of his positions have been popular.

He voted to retain the vaccine exemptions, which Hancock County rejected by a 3-1 margin. He has also voted against open primaries, disenfranchising a substantial number of Hancock County voters in primary elections. He is unopposed in his primary but not on the Republican side. John Linnehan entered the race a while ago and would probably not have given Luchini much competition. Now Brian Langley has jumped in, and that’s another story.

Langley served in the office from 2010-2018, a moderate Republican and a fixture in Ellsworth who suited enough Democrats to keep a hold on his seat in this left-leaning county. A decades-long teacher in career and technical education programs in Ellsworth, he is the recently named head of a program he helped start.

The “bridge” program has become the Bridge Academy. It gives Maine high school students an opportunity to begin college courses prior to their high school graduation at about one third the cost per credit. Those students could get a college degree in three years, lowering the overall cost of a degree.

Langley owns a restaurant in Ellsworth and is familiar with the trials and tribulations of small business. It will be an interesting contest. Both Langley and Luchini have records to run on. Check them out.

The blockbuster race? Senate District 8, the seat currently held by Sen. Kimberley Rosen. She served four terms in the House and is now looking to a third term in the Senate. Not unlike Brian Langley, Rosen functions at a low level of partisanship, saying she doesn’t like to be “pinned to one side or the other.” She is highly responsive to constituents.

Her challenge is similar to Langley’s. Are they Republican enough for Republicans? And though they might be Republican moderates, they are not Democrats. They are the bedrock of the Maine Legislature. Do we have enough middle-of-the-road voters left to support them?

Rosen has a primary challenger who presents a sharp distinction. Larry Lockman, one of the most conservative members of the House, has earned a reputation for inflammatory rhetoric. Rosen’s Republican Senate colleagues have endorsed her; Lockman comes with the support of former Governor Paul LePage.

There is a primary on the Democratic side of that district too. Bev Uhlenhake, a former mayor of Brewer who made a decent showing against Rosen in 2018, will try again to unseat her this fall. It is likely an uphill battle. Opposing Uhlenhake in that Democratic primary is Trudy Scee, also of Brewer, who if nothing else has the prettiest logo in this crowded race.

Seven people for two seats — too bad this is the exception and not the norm. It is good to have choices. That inspires the voter to do some due diligence rather than just show up and vote for the only candidate.

Unenrolled candidates have until June 1 to file, so we won’t know if the Hancock County rosters are complete until then. Another caveat: The deadline for party candidates was Monday, March 16, at 5 p.m., so it is possible other candidates might have filed after this column’s Sunday deadline.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.

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