BY AMY CALDER
With four of seven municipalities reporting late Tuesday, Democrat Colleen M. Lachowicz was leading incumbent Sen. Thomas H. Martin, Jr., a Republican, by 1,303 votes in the race for Martin’s Senate District 25 seat.
Lachowicz had 5,880 votes to Martin’s 4,577.
“I’m hopeful and overwhelmed and just waiting for the final results,” Lachowicz said at 11 p.m. at a gathering of family members, friends, supporters and volunteers at Post Office Square in downtown Waterville.
Martin, who was at home awaiting results, could not predict the outcome, he said.
“I think it’s completely up in the air,” he said.
The district covers Albion, Benton, Clinton, Unity Township, Waterville and Winslow in Kennebec County; and Detroit and Pittsfield in Somerset County.
In Waterville, Lachowicz won 4,224 to 2,318; in Albion, Martin won 598-372; in Martin’s hometown of Benton, he won 824-579; and in Clinton, Martin won 837-705.
The race drew international attention twice in a week earlier this fall when the state Republican Party created a website and mailed out flyers criticizing Lachowicz for engaging in a fantasy online game and making “crude, vicious and violent online comments.” The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee also called the race one of the key battlegrounds in legislative races across the country.
Lachowicz, 48, is a social worker and clinical supervisor for Kennebec Behavioral Health; Martin, 47, who has held the senate seat two years, is co-owner of Nitram Excavation & General Contractors Inc., of Benton.
Lachowicz said after the Republican attacks that she thought Mainers saw the “political stunt” as bullying and that is why she received an outpouring of support for her campaign following the controversy. She said it provided additional motivation for her and her team of supporters to keep talking with voters about issues that matter to them, such as good jobs and education.
Martin said he had nothing to do with the flyers and did not learn until after the fact that they were being distributed. He said he emailed Lachowicz after the attacks and assured her they did not come from him.
But both Martin and David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, said they believed the attack on Lachowicz was not simply about her gaming, but also about comments she made online about how she was losing productivity and being lazy at her job, which is partially funded by taxes, because she was engaging in gaming. They also cited negative comments she made about Gov. Paul LePage and others.
After a complaint filed by the Maine Republican Party, the state Ethics Commission ruled last week that Lachowicz would not face an investigation into her fundraising activities.
Lachowicz ran her campaign on the promise that she would help create jobs and improve the economy — which she cited as two of the most important issues facing the state.
The former chairman of the Waterville City Democratic Committee and former vice chairman of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee said the people of Maine are underemployed and have not been able to find jobs, and families are suffering. She also said she is a big supporter of education that will help prepare people for jobs and she supports investing in efforts that will bring jobs to Maine.
During his campaign, Martin cited jobs and the economy as the biggest issue facing Maine and vowed to continue the work he started in the senate to help better the state.
Continuing to reform business regulations and working in the education system to offer students better opportunities when they get out of high school or college are paramount, he said. Making education affordable also is important, he said.
Martin is chairman of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Committee and a member of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. He also is a member of both the Benton Planning Board and Benton Budget Committee.
Amy Calder — 861-9247