AUGUSTA — A state senator elected just four months ago faces a challenge from an aggressive campaigner.

A former lawmaker knocked out of her seat two years ago seeks to make a comeback.

And term limits create opportunities for new faces to step up and lead.

These are just three of seven state legislative races in central Maine that are likely to be highly competitive in November. With the primaries now behind them, candidates can fully focus on the fall as Republicans push to keep their hold on their House and Senate majorities, and the Democrats’ fight to win one or both chambers.

Statewide, all 186 seats are open, and in central Maine, 38 are being contested.

While the parties have until late July to set their fields — for instance, Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta, announced last week she is bowing out because she wants to run for district attorney — all but a handful of candidates are prepping for November.

Here’s an preview of seven potentially hot races in central Maine:

Senate District 20

Rep. Les Fossel, R-Alna, is hoping to make Sen. Chris Johnson’s term one of the shortest in state history.

Johnson, a Democrat, won a special election for the seat in February, surprising State House insiders who had already started to call his opponent — Rep. Dana Dow, R-Waldoboro — “senator” days before the election. Dow was chosen over Fossel to represent Republicans in the race, but Dow fell short, 54 percent to 46 percent, against Johnson.

The win left Democrats crowing that they had finally made inroads in a traditionally Republican district, which is 19 towns in Lincoln County, two in Knox and the Kennebec County town of Windsor.

Republicans cited low turnout for the Valentine’s Day vote and Dow blamed anti-LePage sentiments for the loss.

Expect both men to work very hard to win the seat and for both parties to give them extra support.

Senate District 21

Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, is facing a challenge from former lawmaker and former Hallowell Mayor David Bustin.

McCormick beat Bustin in a 2004 House race by nearly 500 votes and has continued to drub all Democratic challengers by increasing margins each time. His streak started in 2002 when he won a four-way House race, and after beating Bustin, he moved over to the Senate where he has been elected three straight times.

During the primary, Bustin already started to run against the governor, saying the state needs strong, experienced Democrats to stand up to Gov. Paul LePage and Republicans. McCormick employs a more laid-back campaign style that suits the more rural parts of the district such as his hometown of West Gardiner. The district also covers Farmingdale, Litchfield, Chelsea, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, and Winthrop.

Senate District 27

The largest state Senate district east of the Mississippi features two influential State House incumbents running against each other.

Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, just finished his first Senate term after six years in the House and now faces Rep. Herb Clark, D-Millinocket, who has served 12 terms in the House dating back to 1981. Although Thomas served as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee this term, he has been active on transportation issues for years.

After jobs, a major issue in the district is the proposed east-west highway. Thomas sponsored the bill to pay for a study of the project and Clark signed on as a co-sponsor. Clark is a retired mill worker who will get help from organized labor, while Thomas is a small businessman serving a largely Republican district.

Two years ago, Thomas easily defeated Democrat Susan Mackey Andrews by more than 2,500 votes, while Clark cruised to victory over Republican challenger Debbi Perkins.

House District 52

It’s a rematch from 2010, but this time Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, is the incumbent and Lisa Miller, a Somerville Democrat, is the challenger.

Two years ago, Miller had just finished up her sixth year as the state representative for the district that covers Chelsea, Somerville, Whitefield, Washington, part of Jefferson and Hibberts Gore. She served on the most powerful committee, Appropriations, and was figured to win reelection.

But along came Sanderson, and when the votes were counted on election night, she won with 53 percent of the vote. As a lawmaker, she’s served on the Criminal Justice and Health and Human Services committees.

Miller was one of 16 House Democratic incumbents to be swept out of office two years ago when Republicans took control of both chambers and the governor’s mansion.

House 59

With no incumbent because of term limits, two newcomers to state politics will try to win the seat that’s been held by Rep. Stephen Hanley, D-Gardiner, for eight years.

Gay Grant, a South Gardiner Democrat, is fresh off a win in Tuesday’s primary in which she defeated two others. Daniel Bates, a Gardiner Republican, faced no primary challenge. Grant is a self-employed writing consultant and Bates is an attorney with a law office in downtown Gardiner.

While it might be easy to assume the Democrat has an edge because Hanley served for eight years, Hanley was a moderate Democrat who often voted with Republicans.

House 82

In another wide open seat, Republican Scott Davis of Winthrop faces Democrat Craig Hickman, also of Winthrop.

The seat has been held for eight years by Rep. Patrick Flood, R-Winthrop, who serves as House chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Like Hanley, Flood is a moderate who isn’t afraid to vote with the opposing party.

Hickman, co-owner of a bed and breakfast, is hot off a big win last week in a Democratic primary in which he pulled more than 70 percent of the vote in the district that covers Winthrop and Readfield.

His opponent in the fall is Davis, who grew up in Monmouth and has lived in Winthrop for 35 years. Davis is also president of the board of DFD Russell Medical Centers.

Senate District 25

Democrats are surely looking to capture back this Senate seat after it was won in an open race by a Republican in 2010 following a solid decade of Democratic control.

Colleen Madigan Lachowicz defeated Dana Bushee Hernandez in the Democratic primary last week. Lachowicz, 48, of Waterville, is a social worker who said she wants to help local people start and grow their own businesses.

She now faces Sen. Thomas H. Martin Jr., R-Benton. Martin won the seat in 2010 amid the wave that propelled LePage into office and Republicans into the majority in both legislative chambers.

Martin won the open seat against Waterville Democrat Pam Trinward following the political bombshell that Assistant Senate Majority Leader Lisa Marraché, D-Waterville, would not see re-election. Marraché moved to the Senate from the House in 2006 after Ken Gagnon, also a Waterville Democrat, served six years.

The district serves Albion, Benton, Clinton, Detroit, Pittsfield, Unity Township, Waterville and Winslow.

Susan Cover — 621-5643

[email protected]


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