Three Democrats filed paperwork earlier this week to run for the Maine Senate in District 14, setting up a June primary election in which voters will decide which one will face the Republican nominee in November.

Terry Berry, Shenna Bellows and George O’Keefe all filed the paperwork by Tuesday’s deadline to run as Democrats for the seat being vacated by Sen. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, who announced recently that he is not running for re-election. Republican voters will have a choice in June as well, with Maureen Blanchard, a Gardiner city councilor, and Bryan Cutchen, a retired Navy rear admiral, vying for the Republican spot on the November ballot. Neither Blanchard nor Cutchen could be reached for comment Thursday.

All three Democratic candidates have served their communities in some capacity, but only Berry has held elective office, as a Gardiner City Council member. Bellows lost a challenge to Republican U.S. Susan Collins for Collins’ seat in 2014 and O’Keefe is a volunteer firefighter in Winthrop. He also has served in the Maine Army National Guard across New England and in Afghanistan on two occasions.

The winner of the Democratic and Republican primaries in June will face off in November for the right to represent the residents of Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner and Winthrop.

The primary will be held June 14.

The 35-member Maine Senate now is controlled by Republicans, 20-15.

SHENNA BELLOWS

Bellows, 40, said she knows Berry and O’Keefe from her Senate campaign two years ago and has a great deal of respect for them and their integrity.

However, she said her experience distinguishes her as the right choice in this race. Bellows lives in Manchester and is the interim executive director at LearningWorks, an organization that provides services to at-risk youth and immigrant families throughout the state.

Bellows has advocated for civil rights, privacy and other issues in Augusta for more than a decade and thinks that work, and her time spent campaigning in 2014, will help in this race. She was motivated to get into this race because of what she saw in Augusta while working as a lobbyist.

“There are a lot of people in our community who are impacted by what happens in Augusta every day, and I would like to be a strong voice and advocate for them,” she said. “I’ve seen firsthand how the laws and policies in Augusta can have a direct impact on people’s lives in our community.”

Bellows said she talked to a lot of voters and learned a tremendous amount during her last campaign, and last Sunday she knocked on 52 doors.

“I had a lot of conversations with people in this district who are concerned about their children’s and their grandchildren’s futures,” she said. “I fully intended to knock on the doors of as many voters in this district as possible and hear their stories.”

TERRY BERRY

Berry, 60, has been a real estate agent and builder in central Maine for more than 35 years and is serving his second term on the Gardiner City Council. He said while he was working on his third budget for the city, it became clear that state government has a huge effect at the local level.

“We seem to be caught because (the state) pushes it down to us, and we really don’t have many options,” Berry said. “Our option is to place it on the property tax, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Berry said he has seen firsthand through his work as a real estate agent all the heartache that comes from an economic downturn.

“People are dealing with taxes that keep going up because the state government keeps pushing it downhill,” he said.

Berry talks to people constantly because of his job, and he thinks communication needs to improve in Augusta.

“People have to start talking to each other, and that’s not happening,” Berry said. “Everyone is getting into their own camp and seeing if they can outmaneuver the other party, and that’s not achieving anything for the people of Maine.”

Berry said he’d be the first to admit that this type of campaigning is not something he has a great deal of comfort with yet, but he is looking forward to “getting out there and hearing more from what people about what they want and what they need.”

He said he is the right choice in part because his opponents have never held public office, weren’t born and raised in Kennebec County and don’t understand the complexities of the housing market.

GEORGE O’KEEFE

O’Keefe, 34, and owner of O’Keefe Strategic Services, said he has a great deal of respect for both Berry and Bellows because of their commitment to improving the lives of people.

However, he thinks economic development and opportunities for residents of the district is a priority and thinks his experience trumps that of his opponents.

“I understand local issues, and I am committed to economic development,” O’Keefe said. “I’ve watched the decline of the economy and have a very clear record on the importance of providing better job opportunities than what we see for the vast majority of residents in southern Kennebec County.”

O’Keefe, who moved to Winthrop in December 2003, said he is the best of the three candidates for the general election because he has “very broad appeal across all party lines and to all voters in the district.” He said he’s committed to Democratic principles but is capable of finding common ground with all voters in the district.

He said his motivation comes from understanding how much people suffer.

“I feel very strongly that more can be done by the state government to assure that people have the economic opportunity they need and deserve,” he said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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