The deadline for party candidates to register for the June primaries is March 15, just three weeks away. Time’s a-wasting, and candidates are rather thin on the ground in Hancock County.
Only two of eight House races currently have a candidate from each party. Those are in districts 136 (east of Ellsworth plus Mariaville, Osborn and Waltham) and 137 (Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Franklin and Great Pond in Hancock County).
District 137 pits incumbent Republican Larry Lockman against Democratic challenger Maxwell Coolidge of Franklin. Lockman would be entering his fourth and final term if he is successful this season.
District 136 has two new faces, Rep. Richard Malaby being termed out this year. For the upcoming election, both Democrat Kylie Bragdon and Republican Billy Bob Faulkingham live in Winter Harbor, and both serve on the board of selectmen there. It is bound to be a challenge to separate their local roles as selectmen from their candidacies for the House, but both have expressed their intention to keep the contest from spilling over into their work on the town board.
If that is the case, it will be a shining example from a small community that yes, we can just get along. Municipal boards are generally nonpartisan. The candidates have known each other for a long time, and both had enough support to be elected to town office. How divisive will the race be within the community? Let’s hope it is not.
Republicans Richard Campbell (District 130, Bucksport and Orrington) and Karl Ward of Dedham (District 131) are both incumbents without opposition. Across the aisle, Democrats Genevieve McDonald (Stonington), Sarah Pebworth (Blue Hill) and Brian Hubbell (Bar Harbor, Mount Desert and Lamoine) are unopposed. If no one else jumps in by the deadline, the five unopposed candidates will effectively be the winners if they complete the primary process.
One can imagine some hesitation about taking on the incumbents in these races, but two of them are open seats. Is there no one who would make it a contest and give voters a choice? As for District 132, Ellsworth and Trenton, there is no one running at all. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The seat is being vacated by the term-limited Louie Luchini, and so far no would-be successors have volunteered.
It’s not too late. The best primer on how to become a candidate is the “2018 Candidate’s Guide to Ballot Access” on the Secretary of State’s website. It explains the requirements for candidacy for party members, non-party candidates, even write-ins. It also gives the details on age, citizenship and residency for various offices. Ellsworth, Trenton? Can’t you field anyone?
You will need just 25 signatures on a petition to qualify as a party candidate, or 50 as a non-party candidate. Non-party or “unenrolled” candidates have until June 1 to file petitions. A “Declaration of Write-in Candidacy” must be submitted by April 13. The guide has information on all that and much, much more, including how and when you may accept donations or spend money, or change party enrollment or residency prior to an election.
Non-party candidates and write-ins may choose a “political designation” of up to three words in length. It may not be “obscene, contemptuous, profane or prejudicial,” nor promote “abusive or unlawful activity.” “Your mother was a hamster” or “Your father smelt of elderberries?” Not allowed.
What accounts for the dearth of candidates? We used to be livelier than this. Are people just too fed up with the politics of the day to want to take on the job? The salary is low, the workload high, but surely someone could be tempted.
It is great to see that two of the newcomers to Hancock County races are women. For the last three two-year sessions, Hancock County has not seen a woman representative in the House. What’s up with that?
Elsie Flemings served from Bar Harbor from 2008-2012. Before that it was Virginia “Ginger” Constantine, also from Bar Harbor, who served until 1994, and before that was Ellsworth’s Ruth Foster. She led the way. Not only was she the first woman to win a Hancock County House seat, she was the first woman to represent Hancock County in the Maine Senate as well. Kimberley Rosen (Bucksport) now holds the Senate seat in neighboring District 8.
In the past 30 years, women have held from 21 percent to 35 percent of the seats in the House. In the same period, the Senate had a high of 45 percent women in 1998-90 and a low of 20 percent from 2010-2014. Given that male versus female population in Maine is in the 50/50 neighborhood, women are under-represented.
Running for office or serving in the Legislature are both extraordinary experiences. You do have to have a flexible life and additional income. But oh, the people you’ll meet! If you have a little itch to do it, now’s the time. Go for it.