An incumbent Republican state senator representing parts of Kennebec and Somerset counties faces opposition in November from a Democrat who has been active in both local and state politics.
Sen. Thomas H. Martin, 47, of Benton, and Colleen M. Lachowicz, 48, of Waterville, are vying for the Senate District 25 seat Martin has held two years.
The race drew national attention twice in a week when the state Republican Party created a website and mailed out flyers criticizing Lachowicz for engaging in a fantasy online gaming and making “crude, vicious and violent online comments,” and when the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee called the race one of the key battlegrounds in legislative races across the country.
Lachowicz said she thinks Mainers see the “political stunt” as bullying and that is why there has been such an outpouring of support for her campaign since the attack.
“I’ve received hundreds of supportive messages,” she said. “It’s provided additional motivation for me and my wonderful team of volunteers to get out there and keep talking with voters about the issues that matter to them, like good jobs and education.”
David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, has said the attack on Lachowicz is not simply about her gaming, but about online comments she made about how she was losing productivity and being lazy at her job, which is partially funded by taxes, because she was engaging in gaming.
Martin said he had nothing to do with the flyers, did not learn until after the fact that they were being distributed and has made it clear he does not support negative advertising attacks against opponents.
“I emailed her and assured her that this attack did not come from me, and I learned in my first race you get thick skin real fast because we’re a free country — anybody can say anything they want,” Martin said.
But, like Sorensen, he thinks Republicans are attacking her more for negative comments she wrote online about Gov. Paul LePage and others.
Martin does not think the attacks against Lachowicz will cause people to not vote for him, he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to change anybody that was going to vote for me before,” he said. “I am surprised that people see me on the street and say, ‘How did you come up with that information?’ I say, ‘I didn’t. It comes from outside money.'”
Lachowicz, a social worker and clinical supervisor for Kennebec Behavioral Health, said she thinks jobs and the economy are the biggest single issue facing the state.
“I hear that, both in my work and when I knock on doors,” said Lachowicz, former chairman of the Waterville City Democratic Committee and former vice chairman of Kennebec County Democratic Committee. “The people of Maine are underemployed and haven’t been able to find jobs, and families are suffering because of it. I work with a lot of young people — teens transitioning into adulthood — and they need more opportunities. I am a big supporter of education that will prepare people for jobs, and in investing in things that will bring jobs here.”
Martin, co-owner of Nitram Excavation & General Contractors Inc., said the economy and jobs are the biggest issue facing Maine and he wants to continue the work he started in the senate to help better the state.
“I think we have to keep after reforming the (business) regulations and we have to work in the education system to offer our students better opportunities when they get out of high school or college,” he said. “We see it time and time again; someone goes to a four-year college and ends up taking a job that doesn’t fit the criteria because there are slim pickings. I think having those opportunities and making sure education is affordable is important.”
As a member of both the Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Committee and Healthy Northern Kennebec, Lachowicz says she sees families struggling financially, which affects children and the elderly.
While there are some training programs in the area for people seeking employment, she says, she wants to help make that training more affordable. The state also needs to invest in small business, she said.
“Our biggest resource is our people,” she said. “Maine people are renowned around the country for their work ethic and want to be put to work.”
She said her experience is in helping people help themselves and she will do the same as a legislator.
“The clients I have worked with for the past several years are kids who struggled in school because of a variety of problems,” Lachowicz said. “The work we did together allowed them to break the cycles of abuse and dependence. They now lead happy and productive lives. I bring knowledge of methods based on evidence: programs that help people improve their lives and are often cheaper than what we’re doing right now. We need a government that not only works, but works smart. That’s what I can offer: smarter government.”
Martin said that as a small business owner, he understands the reasons why some businesses decide to move to or open in states such as New Hampshire, where regulations aren’t as strict and unemployment insurance and workers compensation rates are lower.
He said he worked hard to get both sides of the aisle working on workers compensation reform.
In his business, he talks with bank officials frequently and the banks have millions of dollars to lend, he said.
“They’re starving because nobody is confident enough to take the risks right now. We need to create an atmosphere to allow small businesses to take risks. We’re a small business state and we need to make our state user-friendly for them.”
Both Lachowicz and Martin said they think it is important for Democrats and Republicans to work together to help Maine residents.
“I’ll do what it takes to serve the people of this district and if that means working across the aisle, why not?” Lachowicz said. “It shouldn’t be about making our parties look good; it should be about whether our work is fair and beneficial to all people.”
Martin, chairman of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Committee who also sits on the Labor, Commerce, Research & Economic Development Committee, says he works well with Democrats and he thinks both parties are moving in the direction of trying not to be so partisan.
“We know we have to work across the aisles,” he said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247