SKOWHEGAN — Some 288 Democrats crowded into an overheated union hall Sunday night and chose Maeghan Maloney as their candidate for district attorney in November.

The vote was 157 for the Augusta legislator and 130 for longtime prosecutor and current acting District Attorney Alan Kelley. One vote was blank.

The careful orchestrations designed to allow an orderly nomination of a Democrat to run for the office of Kennebec/Somerset Counties District Attorney worked.

The Democrats met at the Poulin-Turner Union Hall to choose between Kelley, 61, of West Gardiner, who’s been in the prosecutor’s office for more than 33 years, and Maloney, 41, a state representative who’s been a prosecutor in both Maine and Oregon.

After the totals were announced, Kelley offered Maloney a handshake and his congratulations. Maloney thanked him and said they would be communicating.

“I respect everyone who works in the district attorney’s office,” Maloney said afterward. “I give them all a clean slate and ask for them to give me a clean slate.”

She said she was looking forward to the November election.

Before the vote, Kelley urged people to vote for him because of his experience on the job.

“For 33 years, I’ve been working and doing my best to make this community safe for you,” he said.

Maloney told them, “I have a record of running against Republicans and winning on Election Day.”

She said she would step up civil forfeiture efforts as a way to prevent repeat crimes. She highlighted her experience with that program out of state and her two years as a lawmaker.

“With your help, we can elect the only candidate in this race who is a lifelong Democrat,” she said.

Kelley, who switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2009, countered that he learned the job from the previous Democratic district attorneys and will remain a Democrat.

“The party could choose to leave me, but I would not choose to leave the party,” he said.

That remark brought loud cheers, particularly from a contingent of his supporters wearing green T-shirts that said “Alan Kelley for DA” over an outline of the scales of justice.

Kelley said the district attorney is responsible for almost all criminal prosecution in the district,

“It requires experience and works closely with law enforcement,” he said “You are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

In June, Maloney won the Democratic primary in a bid for a second term as District 57 representative in the State House, but later withdrew as a candidate to concentrate on the district attorney race.

In February, fellow Democrats selected Maloney over Kelley to be interim replacement for then-District Attorney Evert Fowle, who accepted an appointment as a District Court judge.

However, Gov. Paul LePage refused to appoint Maloney, saying he wanted more than one person to choose from. Fowle had recommended Kelley as his replacement and Kelley, who was the deputy under Fowle, has filled in as an interim.

The contest proved a boon for the Democratic Party, as supporters of each candidate sought to become county committee members so they could be eligible to vote.

In fact, at a special, half-hour session Sunday in Waterville, 66 registered Democrats in Kennebec County joined the committee so they could cast a ballot later that evening. In Somerset County, a similar meeting brought 22 more committee members, according to party leaders.

Colby Seams of Somerset was chairman for the two-county meeting.

Both Kelley and Maloney gave a five-minute introduction, then responded to a limited number of questions and offered brief wrapup remarks before the vote.

The Democratic nominee is expected to face Republican Darrick Banda of Manchester at the polls in November in a special election to fill the remaining two years of Fowle’s term.

Banda formerly worked as an assistant district attorney in the district.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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