Change is coming in the Maine Senate district stretching from Readfield to Pittston, but so far the hopefuls on both sides could be called members of Augusta’s old guard.
On Sunday, David Bustin, 75, a former Hallowell mayor and 1970s-era Democratic state legislator, announced he would run for the seat in 2014 that he unsuccessfully ran for in 2012 against Sen. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop.
The race took further shape on Monday when Flood told the Kennebec Journal that he won’t run for re-election. Meanwhile, Republican Earle McCormick, a 71-year-old West Gardiner selectman who held the seat two years ago before Flood for six years, said he’ll be running against Bustin.
Both Bustin and McCormick said they’ll run as publicly financed candidates.
Though Democrats have re-taken the Legislature since McCormick left and Bustin last ran, Bustin said many of the same issues remain. No. 1, he said, is the impact of cuts in state aid to cities and towns.
“I think the impact on the towns and cities has not yet been fully felt with these cuts,” Bustin said.
McCormick, a retired meteorologist and teacher, said he wants to be part of a group of legislators who “can work together and get stuff done.”
Capital-area communities lose a respected, moderate voice at the State House with Flood’s departure. He’s probably best known for his work on the state’s budget-writing committee, on which he’s serving his eighth year in his 10th total year in the Legislature, eight of those in the House of Representatives.
“I have a similar attitude about public service in the Legislature as Pat,” Bustin said. “That’s low tone and not participating in the wrangling to employ civil discourse.”
Flood, 62, said he has told members of his party for months now that he wouldn’t be running again in 2014. He said he wants to travel with his wife and spend time with his mother.
“I love the work, particularly the Appropriations problem-solving stuff, but 10 years is a long time,” he said.
Redistricting last year changed Flood’s district minimally for the next election, swapping Litchfield for Readfield in a northern shift of the district. Gardiner, Hallowell, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, West Gardiner and Winthrop continue to make up the rest of the district, renamed District 14 from 21.
The change in the district looks to benefit Bustin. Swapping Litchfield for Readfield gives the district two more Democrats, but more than 100 less Republicans, according to August 2013 state voter data.
For the most part, Readfield has also been friendly to Democrats in recent legislative elections. For example, In 2012, Democrat Joanne Dunlap won just 35 percent of votes against Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton. While Dunlap didn’t even beat Saviello in her small hometown of Rangeley Plantation, she beat him in Readfield, getting 47 percent of votes.
Rita Moran, chairwoman of Kennebec County Democrats, said she wouldn’t rule out a primary challenge against Bustin, but didn’t know of anyone mulling an immediate run.
Bustin said getting Readfield in the district is positive for him, especially as he came close to beating Flood in 2012, losing by less than 300 votes. He ran unsuccessfully against McCormick in a 2004 race for a Maine House seat made up of Hallowell, Farmingdale and West Gardiner, getting 45 percent of votes. That won McCormick his second of two House terms before moving to the upper chamber in 2006.
McCormick and Bustin said their campaign nearly a decade ago was a positive, respectful one, and this one will be as well.
“I know he wants to be up there,” McCormick said of Bustin. “It’s my job to see that he doesn’t. But it’s going to be cordial.”