AUGUSTA — There are now no official candidates running for a state legislative district representing much of Maine’s capital city, as the winners of both the Republican and Democrat primaries have withdrawn from the race.

Andrew D. Worcester, who defeated Michael Hein last week in the Republican primary in House District 57, has informed the state and local Republican leadership that he’s dropping out.

His withdrawal follows that of Democratic incumbent Rep. Maeghan Maloney, who announced last week she was withdrawing from the race so she can focus on running for district attorney.

The result: Neither of the victorious primary candidates for the two major parties will be on the general election ballot in November.

“It’s certainly an unusual situation to have this happen,” said University of Maine at Farmington political science professor Jim Melcher. “I don’t think there are enough cases for this to be a trend. … I don’t think it is a typical party strategy to follow. I think it is traceable to the unique circumstances of both races.”

Other state office candidates also have dropped out recently, such as State Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, who quit the race for Senate District 21 on Monday.

Augusta City Republican Committee Chairman Corey Vose said city Republicans living in District 57 will hold a special caucus to select a replacement for Worcester at 6 p.m. July 2 in the Augusta City Center lecture hall. All enrolled Republicans living in District 57 are eligible to participate and vote in the special caucus.

In a letter to the Maine secretary of state and Vose, Worcester withdrew as the Republican nominee late Monday night. Worcester’s letter says he cannot continue his candidacy because of “ever increasing personal commitments.”

Worcester did not return repeated calls for comment in the weeks leading up to the primary election, did not appear to be running an active campaign, and again could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

‘Never really a candidate’?

Mark J. Ellis, a member of the Augusta City Republican Committee and a former chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said he did not know if Worcester was just a placeholder candidate or if he ever intended to serve in the House of Representatives. Ellis said as far as he knew, Worcester was not asked to run for the seat.

Worcester defeated Hein 168-134 in the primary election.

Hein said Tuesday that Worcester “was never really a candidate,” and suggested Ellis and other party officials collected Worcester’s nomination signatures for him, to get him on the ballot. Hein said he collected signatures to get on the ballot after he learned the Republican party was having a hard time recruiting a candidate for District 57, because he felt the district deserved a state representative who cared about residents of the district.

In 2006, an Andrew D. Worcester, then living in Portland, ran in the Republican primary for state House of Representatives District 115 in Portland. In that race, Worcester also withdrew after the primary and was replaced by another Republican candidate, according to the secretary of state’s records.

Worcester previously worked for the Maine Senate Republican office.

Melcher, who lives in District 57 and said he is friends with both Maloney and Hein, said it is hard to see Worcester’s placement on the primary ballot as anything other than a statement of a lack of confidence by some Republicans in Hein.

On June 6, Hein pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted theft by deception in district court in Augusta related to his campaign financing efforts. The state attorney general’s office filed the charge, alleging Hein used his own money to try to qualify for public campaign financing through the Maine Clean Election Act and falsified forms.

The charges came to light after Worcester and Hein had filed to fun for District 57.

“Mike has had conflicts before with other area and state Republicans in the past, and he backed Ron Paul at the state convention, and I don’t think all of the party leadership was thrilled by his candidacy,” Melcher said. “Having a placeholder there after he was charged meant they could put up an alternative to deny Hein the nomination who didn’t have to have his or her own weaknesses aired out in the primary race.”

New candidates emerge

At least two potential candidates have expressed interest in the Republican nomination for District 57 — Matthew Pouliot and Larry Ringrose.

Pouliot, a member of the Augusta Planning Board, and Ringrose, a member of the Augusta Board of Education, both confirmed their interest on Tuesday.

Democrats are set to meet to at 6:30 p.m. July 11 at City Center to name a replacement for the November ballot. Former lawmaker Patsy Crockett, who held the seat before Maloney, said she will seek the party nomination.

Maloney said she kept her name on the Democratic primary ballot even though she knew, before the election, she probably would run for district attorney instead. If she had withdrawn before the primary, no other Democrat could have run for the seat in November.

Melcher said it wouldn’t be fair to refer to Maloney as a placeholder candidate. He said the issue never would have come up if Gov. Paul LePage had appointed Maloney as the district attorney, as county Democrats had requested.

State election law says a party’s nomination shall be made by primary election, with one of the few exceptions to that rule being when there is a vacancy because a primary election candidate withdraws, dies, or becomes disqualified.

Melcher said there are states where parties routinely make nominations for lower-level offices, but it is not something voters are typically used to in Maine.

“It may be troubling to voters that they may wind up with candidates they don’t know as well in the general election as they would like, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen so much that it’s going to lead to a sense of alienation or a sense of being cheated,” Melcher said. “I think that’s only going to happen if it appears that there becomes a trend of party leaders repeatedly trying to game the system this way.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

 


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