A Belgrade state legislator has announced that he’ll bow out of his re-election bid, and a Republican businessman from the same town said he’ll run to replace him.

State Rep. Dennis Keschl, a two-term Republican, said he will leave the Maine Legislature after two terms for personal reasons, while Gary Hilliard, 59, the owner of Subway restaurants in Gardiner, Damariscotta and Farmington, said he’ll pursue his party’s nomination.

Keschl said he never intended to stay in Augusta for the four terms that state legislators are limited to and he wants to seek a full-time job.

“The Legislature has time commitments my wife didn’t want me to participate in, but that’s not the only reason,” he said in a Tuesday interview.

Keschl, a former Belgrade town manager and state employee, was first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2012, serving both terms on the Legislature’s influential Appropriations Committee, which authors the state budget. He said he may try to come back to the Legislature in the future.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, said he was “constantly impressed” by Keschl’s “breadth of knowledge and his dedication to the grueling work” of the budget-writing committee, calling Keschl “the definition of a public servant.”

He ran unopposed in the June 10 primary to represent a district made up of Belgrade, Fayette, Mount Vernon, Rome, Wayne and Vienna.

Democrat Richard Tracy, a former legislator from Rome, was nominated by his party to run for the seat.

Keschl’s exit may be good news for Tracy in a potential swing district where there are only 48 more Republicans than Democrats, according to state voter data from earlier this month. A Democrat held Keschl’s seat before 2010. Two Democrats and one Republican held Keschl’s seat in the six years before he got it.

David Sorensen, spokesman for the Maine Republican Party, called Hilliard the presumptive nominee for the party, saying nobody else has said they’re weighing a run. Now, Republicans in the district towns have until July 28 to caucus and officially nominate a new candidate for the seat.

In an interview, Hilliard said he’s “pretty conservative,” saying he hopes to work on reducing government spending and regulation.

“I would like to use my business experience to try and help things out in Augusta,” he said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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